If Only It Was That Easy
By nature I am a night owl. Add to it that some of my favorite writing partners and friends are up late and getting to bed before 1:00 in the morning seems impossible. Last night, my attempts to get some real sleep were hampered by those wonderful characters in my head.
Last night, my attempts to post a character blog turned into an interesting character study when just the right button of Luke’s was pushed. Tired of being called an entitled brat, he let loose on the blog where characters share their stories. A fellow writer told me that from a writer’s perspective it was fantastic which left me to fill in the gap that it won’t be making him friends any time soon. As the conversation continued, it led to a real discussion about the meaning of entitlement in the wealthy, what it means to connect to a character, and whether or not a character cares if they are likeable or not. I also waxed poetically (or rather, rambled) about Luke’s timeline and how this meltdown was coming in the novel anyway so it was interesting to let it happen on an online community of characters.
And then, as I was realizing that my brain was useless and I was beaten and bruised from Luke’s meltdown, I commented to this writing friend that we needed to come to a decision about a conversation two characters need to have. It resulted in my taking an extra three minutes to write out a quick journal entry and then I headed to sleep – well, attempted sleep. My mind would not shut off. And a few minutes later she received a text telling her that I thought we should let the conversation go away for now. It was only a quick exchange of her agreeing and my justification, including the plot would be more interesting if we let the conversation come back to bite them later, but it was punctuated with a final moment. “Liz isn’t a priority anymore.”
She is to me, but once again, she is not a priority to the people around her. That is the whole point of her story, actually. Weeks ago, the thought process was captured in a conversation and the point was driven home as I wrote: … and maybe that’s the point of her character: that there can be happiness even within loneliness, that there is love that is not quite defined, and that not all happy endings come with a wedding cake and a bouquet …as unsettling as that can be to our sensibilities…
As a writer, it is nearly impossible to work through this idea. It’s a fine, fine line where on one side, readers have demanded she find someone who would make her a priority and love her forever and on the other side, her story is much more interesting if she can be happy and content in the structure that is defined for her. But within that happiness and that contentment often come tears and loneliness that must be accepted. In the initial idea of this story, my protagonist dies. Not in the final novel. And last night, lying there, crying, I saw how the end of the story would play out and there were gentle smiles and tears, but it still ached. I ached more than she did. She feels the pangs of loneliness and dreams of a world that is not destined for her, but I am the one who wanted to change everything for her. I am the one who wanted to rip it all down. But it would not be consistent for the character, no matter how lonely I feel as a writer.
If only it was so easy to shut it all off and go to sleep. If only it was so easy to write the story that people want to read. Luke has a lot of hell to go through and a lot of bridges to burn before he grows up. Liz is going to be left alone at the end. Loved, yes, but she is not a priority. As a writer, I have to be okay with that. I have to accept that for a character, it is authentic. That we love love stories not just because of the romance but because of the pain.
And yet, there are moments when I gasp for breath, through the tears, and want it all to change. My emotions kept me awake enough that I logged back onto the computer and re-wrote Liz’s journal entry. When I went back to bed, my mind still whirled until my body gave out. My alarm went off at 6:50 and again at 7:15 and I rolled out of bed feeling like I’d spend the night being beaten to a pulp in a back alley.