Last week I enjoyed my annual writing retreat at VAB, easily the most important week of my year. It’s a time of renewal and restoration in the company of a remarkable group of women. A place of centering and rediscovery. A chance to stop and breathe in the midst of our busy lives.
Ironically, I came out of the week in a dark place, not because of my VAB friends, but because of where I was with my new novel. I dedicated most of my writing hours to The Hunting Grounds, and when time came to catch the flight home, I was on the precipice of tragedy, the hammer of fate that catches up with all our characters.
It was a strange place to be after a week of rest and sunshine, of creative freedom and laughter, of strong women and heartfelt support. I’d made much more progress than I expected on the story (a good thing), and now an awful confrontation was at my protagonist’s doorstep.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a very particular mood always accompanies this stage of my writing. I become withdrawn, somewhat distracted, saddened by the pending, inescapable loss. I have to give myself extra time between scenes as I recuperate from the latest turn of events and meditate on the best approach to writing the next.
In these moments, I doubt myself more than ever as a writer. Am I making the right decision for my characters? Is this betrayal necessary? Is my use of violence justified? How will I know when I cross the line from good story telling to graphic excess?
I have always been sensitive to violence as a reader, and therefore I am, I think, sometimes overly sensitive to my use of it as in author.
But why does all this bring me down? How is writing the dark moments qualitatively different from the day-to-day struggle of any other scene? What’s the real source of my strange melancholy?
Is it remorse over the fate of my characters?
Confrontation with the fact that my own imagination can spawn such terrible moments?
Or is it a too-keen awareness of the human cruelty that I feel compelled to chronicle in my works of fiction?
I vote for the third possibility. After all, that’s the one that made me misty-eyed while I was writing this post.
My characters, in the end, are fictitious. My imagination is just that – imagination. But the truth that both tend to point to in the darkest moments of my stories…Wow, that’s a tough truth to face.
So as not to end on too sad a note…
There’s still one day left on my Goodreads Giveaway for Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web. A story full of hope, passion, and triumph! (And yes, a little bit of human cruelty…) Five signed copies are up for grabs. Enter before Wednesday, May 18th, at 11:59pm for your chance to win.