Australian author DEBRA OSWALD learnt to let her sons venture off into adulthood, but the former Offspring head writer, 58, has a harder time saying goodbye to the characters she creates
Offspring’s Debra Oswald on letting go.
Most of us hate the idea of our children having any kind of suffering or pain. That’s why we sometimes wish we could hold them close to us and hope they never grow up. At the same time, we know that’s nonsense. You don’t become a proper adult unless you’ve experienced some hardship.
Once you have a child, you’re vulnerable. But even though I worry about my kids [Oswald and partner Richard Glover have two sons aged 25 and 30], and still ask them to send me a text when they’ve done a long car journey, I was pretty happy to let them go out into the world. I think I have managed to contain my anxiety to appropriate levels, at least.
The characters I create are like my children. That probably sounds slightly pathological, but I love them all; even when I am making them suffer, I feel so guilty about it. I will sometimes cry in the supermarket when they play music associated with a character I’ve made suffer or I’ve killed off. And as a writer, if you’re lucky, you get to see how your characters affect others. You get to see that you’re landing in people’s heads and hearts, impacting them in some way.
Nowhere has this been more obvious than with the killing of [ Offspring’s romantic lead] Patrick. The other writers and I expected some reaction, but we had no idea of the intensity of it. It was both a bit scary – we joked we’d be put into witness protection – and rewarding as we knew we had touched our audience.
The stories we tell are powerful because when a character goes through something, it’s like a rehearsal – for the reader or the viewer – of what it would be like if that happened in our own lives. Or it’s a reminder of some ordeal they have been through. As long as the story is handled with care and love, the process can be a really nourishing one.
It’s just as difficult to let go of a character as it is to let go of a cast and crew once filming ends. I love the collaborative side of television – that’s what I miss most as I write novels, which is a much more solitary process. The team we had on Offspring was incredible. It’s the most fun you can have in a room together. Well, there are probably a few things that are more fun… but you know what I mean.