09 November, 2008

The Spell Has Been Broken

For a few months I had been feeling like I had cursed myself. No matter how much effort I put into a story, finishing it seemed like an impossibility. Maybe I was psyching myself out too much. I had even taken on the challenge of not writing another story until I finished my last novel. Well, I finished it all right, but was so unhappy with how quickly it all ran together when it was done, that it has been placed on the backburner until further notice.

In July, I started writing my first zombie horror story, but it was slow going at first. I worried that the idea that compelled it in the first place was just a whim, and once the novelty wore off the story would wind up in limbo.

Last night the self-inflicted curse was broken. We were driving our daughter to the skating rink and talking about Eckhart Tolle. I had spent most of the evening writing and mentioned that I really wanted to finish the story. I knew where it was going, how I wanted it to end, and had known that information since mid-September. Why wasn't I finishing it? My husband said it was excuses. No matter what I said, I was just continually making up excuses for why I hadn't finished it. We came home and I updated my status message on AIM and Facebook with what I was doing in the story.

Then it hit me.

I was putting off what needed to be done because I liked the characters too much. I jumped up like a light bulb had just gone on over my head and explained to my husband why I was making up excuses. I didn't want to hurt the characters. Even though I know you have to to make good story in many cases, their situations already seemed dire. What I was about to do seemed downright awful. I imagined myself in that world, in their position and cursed whatever gods put me through that hideous horror.

It occurred to me that the reason my last novel is still sitting on the backburner was based on similar inhibitions. The situation wasn't as "dire" as it is in the short story, but it still involved causing two of my characters a great amount of discomfort and pain. The difference is, they got to have a happy ending. So instead of pushing the pain on them, I muddled through it and gave them the ending, but I know now that it is my job as their creator to wreak havoc in their lives.

Philosophically, I can't help but wonder if that is how our creator feels as it wreaks havocs great and small in our lives. "Oh man... I just really did a number on the Sones's. Maybe I should hold off on killing their Grandpa right now."

Either way, it was an eye opener that allowed me to go through with what needed to be done, and the first draft of the story was completed. I felt great. And while I know I need to go back in and do some serious editing, add more to a couple of scenes that I felt were lacking, I don't feel like I skimped out on my duty as the great havoc stirrer in my characters lives. Sure, they're cursing me in their world, but that's life.


Jacquéline Roth said...

I know the feeling. I suffer separation anxiety when ever I'm about to finish a story. I put it off and make up excuses for not doing it, even when I know what I want to do.

Anny Cook said...

Congratulations! Excellent! So glad you figured it out!

Nicole Ireland said...

I don't think people can truly understand how authors can become so attached to the characters that we create.

I told you the other night that I look at every thing I write as my baby. I want it to be great. I want it to succeed. I want it to have the best possible chance. I become very involved in my characters. There are many times that I end up crying as I'm writing a certain scene because it literally takes on a life of its own. I feel such an emotional connection that when one of them ends up hurt, it's like watching of my children hurts themselves or be hurt by others.

I'm sure we could find ways to detach ourselves from the process, but I don't believe the work that we create would be as believable. Yes, it hurts to us to wreak havoc in their lives, but I think it's a necessary process, just like growing up.

I'm glad you realized the root of your problem, even if it was a hard revelation.

Morgan Mandel said...

Congratulations on getting your story done.
I am so behind on my nano novel, I don't know if I'll ever catch up.
I changed the plot, then I had trouble with my laptop computer - seems like it was just a loose battery. Then I decided to start another blog group listing blog tours. Maybe I'm afraid to get it done.
Morgan Mandel