I hate paperwork. Whether at work or at home, my life seems to be overrun with endless forms, surveys and reels and reels of red tape. I think perhaps we don’t notice it so much these days, as so much of the stuff hides away on our computers where we can’t really see the true size of it. But it’s rare for a day to go by where I don’t have to deal with paperwork in some form. This constant battle with bureaucracy is one of the main reasons that I chose to use it as a major theme in my novel.
Most people would hope that death is a process free from forms, where we can pass on smoothly and with dignity, but what if all those technicalities followed you into the next life too? In Chasing Shadows, paperwork has become something of an abstract villain. The protagonist is held back by endless rules and procedures which she had no choice but to follow if she wants any chance of getting out of the situation with her life. To make things worse, most of the characters seem to have forgotten why most of this bureaucracy exists in the first place. Perhaps it had a purpose many centuries ago, but now it only serves to make life hard for everyone involved.
For me, an important element of this theme was the fact that I took away the paperwork’s ability to hide behind a computer screen. In the world of Chasing Shadows, everything is done on paper. Endless reams of it. Seemingly infinite archives are overflowing with folders that haven’t been touched in millennia and anything remotely useful is inevitably buried beneath a mountain of irrelevant forms. In this way, I wanted to allow the reader to visualise the sheer redundancy of it all and allow them to share in the frustration felt by the protagonist.
For me, bureaucracy has been the perfect villain for the modern world, and one that I found very easy to hate. I just hope it won’t actually follow me beyond death, or I might just go crazy.
Feature Image by Doug