When I was around 10 years old me and my friends found a wooden chest buried under some junk behind some garages in our village. Inside the chest was a plethora of love letters, hand written and between two ‘grown-ups’, so there were plenty of erotic passages discussing things my 10 year old mind could only dream of. I can’t remember any of the details now, but it was a treasure trove of fantasies. As any groups of kids would have done, we endeavoured to find out who had written the letters, so we could put a face to the beautiful filth that had been poured over the pages. And with the lack of resources that a 10 year old had at the time, I’m pretty sure we failed, although I have a faint memory of cherry knocking at some guys house where the letters we’re addressed from.
It talks about the written letter and the closeness you can feel to someone when holding a physical document that they have touched and they have sealed. Letters are a very beautiful thing, perhaps even more so in the digital era.
I realised too that I had not yet posted anything about my anonymous love stories. So… During writing Vessel, I went into power research mode, where you pretty much write nothing and spend all the time you have just looking at other peoples stories and trying to dissect and decipher what it is about them that grips you. I read a tonne of Haiku, obviously. I read a fair amount of sonnets. I read some bog-standard user generated poetry on hobbyist websites. I sifted through a million quotes on the topic of love. But, the most interesting stuff I found was from asking people through those strange places that dwell in the shadows of the internet, those small suburban parks known as general discussion forums… Not this place, but places like it.
I signed up for a pseudonym email address and threw questions about love into the ether. A healthy mix of weird stuff, mundane stuff and really lovely things appeared in my inbox. By weird stuff, I don’t mean weird love stories worthy of mention, I mean just random troll stuff or robot responses from other fake people that were even more fake than me. And by really lovely stuff, I didn’t get anything that was truly heart-breaking or worthy of a BAFTA, but I did get some really honest, slightly awkwardly written responses from people who had experienced love at first sight. My post had triggered a memory in the hearts so vivid they felt the need to respond to a complete stranger to tell them about it.
For some reason though, I felt compelled to write out the emails. You know, with pencil on paper. I even sketched some of the peoples profile pictures next to their story. I’m not sure why. I think maybe the podcast I listened to hit on something though. Maybe it was to feel closer to the text, and closer to the person who wrote it, to somehow feel their sentiments more deeply. As if the act of writing their words could get me inside their heads as they were writing it.
I don’t think I took a huge amount from any of these stories when it actually came to writing Vessel, but I think there is perhaps an element of simplicity that came through in these stories that shaped the overall form of the story. Maybe it’s the way they reduced their stories down to the key events. General discussion forums don’t really advocate detailed responses, and this worked well for Vessel.