The Next Big Step

Yesterday when I was out walking, I finally got a sense of where my WIP needed to go. I wasn’t thinking about the story, but apparently it was thinking about me, and after all this time, there it was, the next big step. Grief. (Wonder where that idea came from!)

I always knew my hero was grieving the loss of the civilized world and everything in it, but I was concerned with his following the stages of grief — denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It dawned on me yesterday that he had never actually felt the sorrow and devastation that accompanies grief. So my vision was of his crying. It goes to show that I cannot write what I do not know. Even though J. had been sick for so long, and I had gone through most of the stages of grief, like my hero, I had never actually gone through the emotion of grief. Could never even have imagined the feeling of amputation that accompanies such a life-changing loss. 

I’m not sure where the discussion is in this.  Perhaps: do you have to have experienced the emotions your characters go through to find the truth of the story? Perhaps: what’s the next big step you need to take in your writing, your life? Mine is a move — perhaps temporary — but a  total upheaval. The big challenge will be to find the energy. One of the problems with grief is the accompanying lack of energy. (Which I need to remember when I write my hero’s grief.)

On a more specific topic, the main impetus for my hero leaving the safety of the compound is his participation in a birth. (This story is a reversal of the hero’s journey — in the traditional journey, the hero dies, at least symbolically, and is reborn. In my story he is reborn first, then the person he used to be dies symbolically.) A nurse, his eventual love interest, actually delivers the child, but my hero must participate in some way. What could he do that would be significant enough to be a catalyst? Keep in mind, this is a totally primitive world. Is cutting the cord (with a flint that he found and has been sharpening) enough? Could there be a problem with the birth that he helps with? He owned a pet shop in the old world, selling used pets, but he probably has been around for the birth of puppies and kittens and perhaps even livestock, so he might have some knowledge. Whatever he does, it has to precipitate his next big step.

14 Responses to “The Next Big Step”

  1. Wanda Hughes Says:

    Perhaps the baby has the cord around it’s neck? He has to help to remove it? Or the baby isn’t breathing and while the nurse works on the mother he gives CPR? Breaths the life back into the baby?

    I don’t know if you HAVE to experience the emotions but for some intense emotions I believe it does help. Grief is one of those emotions that comes differently to each person. The journey is different for each one.

    I’m so glad that your story is knocking on your subconscious again. I feel like it will help you through your journey.

    Love ya hon.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Breathing life into the baby could be symbolically powerful. I’ll consider that. Also, the cord wrapped around its neck is a good image. I might be able to do first the cord, he cuts it with his flint, then breathes life into the baby while the nurse continues to work with the mother.

  2. gabixler Says:

    Pat, I don’t think you have to have felt the feelings to write them….at least that is my opinion… I think just living with others allows us to pick up the emotions we see and our memories would reflect those feelings…

    But I have to ask…what are “used pets”? Just had to make you smile by asking…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You did make me smile, Glenda, and I sure could use one! As for the used pets:

      They had done nothing to deserve imprisonment except fall victim to the capriciousness of their former owners. The snakes, lizards, and tortoises had grown too big. The seeing-eye dog had gone blind. Last year’s Easter chicks had become unfluffy chickens. The cute little puppies had grown large and ugly. The supposedly spayed cat had gotten pregnant. The tropical birds grew too raucous. The potbellied pig lost its charm. The Colorado River toad lost its appeal when its owner got sick after licking it to get high. A few, like the European barn owl with the broken beak and the Australian frilled lizard with the bad leg had belonged to zoos until they became infirm.

      I guess I could have called them pre-owned, but my hero does not believe humans have the right to own animals.

  3. joylene Says:

    Sounds intense and fascinating. And inspiring. Like a good kick in the pants. Thanks, Pat.

  4. Sheila Deeth Says:

    The first thought in my head – a dangerous birth because the cord’s too short.

  5. knightofswords Says:

    I like the breath of life symbolism, too. Many people believe the soul of the child arrives on the first breath.

    My own experiences with emotions make it easier to write about them; well, easier in some ways. In ways, harder, since I’m reliving what I went through when I write the scene.


  6. Jan Says:

    Pat, no one needs to know if you start or not. Maybe do it in a diary form or stream of consciousness. Though, I’m not a big fan of SOC myself.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Jan, you’re right, no one needs to know. However, I do seem to lead my life online, so it’s a bit difficult to ignore that I’m not writing. At least, not writing fiction. I do stream of consciousness writing for myself to help get me through this sorrow.

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