Writing can make us cruel, almost heartless at times, in the service of the story. We go about wrecking ruin on the characters we have created, bringing them to the limit of their endurance. We have the noblest intent. We seek their enlightenment. We mean for them to end the story as so much more than they began – they fight the good fight and find the treasure we have hidden for them. To treat that which you have brought into being with such intent is not for the faint of heart.
The other day I took a character I really like and brought him to the very brink – I put him in a situation that had the potential to ruin everything he had worked for. And I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. As Gustave Flaubert says, “One does not choose one’s subject matter; one submits to it.” I repeat, this is not for the faint of heart.
At other times, a writer’s work is more surprising than cruel. I have one character that went from having short, straight, black hair in her character sketch to being written with curly, blonde hair. Suffice to say, with blonde hair she will have to morph out of the ethnic background I had originally given her. Out of nowhere, a minor character got a name change. Pete didn’t sound like the name of a guy who would do what I was suggesting this guy would do. One character, whom I thought would make a big stink about something, decided to be completely supportive, while shifting the role of the heavy to another character entirely. To say nothing of the fact that I have left a young person in the hospital suffering for days now and can’t seem to return to that part of the story and write the poor kid out the other side. Oh, the trials and tribulations of a story in progress.
The day is brilliant with winter sunshine and the lake looks like a glittering mass of silver diamonds. I have been trying to pump out my 3000 words on The Light Never Lies but the last couple of days have been a real struggle. I produced about 1200 words yesterday and when I read them over this morning, I found only one line that seemed worth keeping. The rest read like crap. Things aren’t going much better today.
On another front, my work on the second round revisions for Disappearing in Plain Sight is done and the e-proofs are back in the hands of Friesen Press. I am glad that I only paid for two rounds of revision. I think I could probably tinker with the manuscript forever – changing a word here, re-thinking the use of a comma there. Enough, already, I am ready for this novel to be launched out into the world – warts and all.
As it has been at every stage of the process, I have no idea what will come after I approve the second round of revisions. But we must be coming close to publication. (If I’m being completely naïve here, please don’t tell me. Thanks in advance.)
Maybe my hard slogging over the keyboard the last two days has to do with reading Disappearing in Plain Sight for the 500th time. The writing is as smooth as my current state of ability could make it. When I go back and look at my first draft of The Light Never Lies, it’s bound to suffer by comparison. Or maybe it is just crap. Time will tell.
(The above photo was taken back in 2008 on the campus of the University of Toronto)