It will be interesting to see what people say about my books; I’m beginning to think I have no idea what I wrote. For example, A Spark of Heavenly Fire is the story of four ordinary people who become extraordinary while struggling to survive quarantine and martial law in Colorado. It was supposed to be a hard-hitting novel with an edge, but my proofreader told me, “You might do well. I think people are ready for a feel-good book.”
A feel-good book? Where is the edge? The horror? The feeling of doom? According to said proofreader, “Those elements are in the background, but the characters are the story. And they are heartbreakingly real.” Oh.
I thought I couldn’t write good characters. Most books on writing (and many authors) say that a writer has to feel what her characters feel or else the reader won’t feel the characters’ emotions. If you don’t cry, neither will your reader. But I don’t feel what my characters feel. Writing erases emotion, takes me to a place of serenity. And serenity is not generally where you want to take a reader. But I am deliberate in my choice of words and in the details I include. Perhaps those elements combine to help overcome my lack of emotion.
Of course, I generally don’t feel the emotion in the books I read, either. Often, despite the blurbs and reviews that extol the great characters, the characters seem to be only props on which the author hung the story, and a banal story at that.
Perhaps, after all, I won’t mind if I haven’t written a book with an edge. There are plenty of those out there. But I do like my proofreader’s description of my book. He wasn’t the first to use the phrase “heartbreakingly real” about my characters, and with any luck, he won’t be the last.
I can live with that.