I’m writing a short story for the Second Wind Publishing holiday anthology, and it just occurred to me that the main character is the first one I have created since the death of my life mate/soul mate who isn’t a grieving widow.
I started a novel a couple of years ago, wanting to capture what it felt like to lose a spouse while my feelings were fresh, but I haven’t finished the book. The pain that seeps into the story is too raw for me to handle yet, and besides, I still don’t know what the point of the story is. Is it primarily to show what it feels like to grieve? Is it primarily the mystery of why her minister husband would get out of his deathbed to kill a neighbor? Is it primarily the mystery of who she is now that she is no longer a minister’s wife? Is it a story of renewal, love, acceptance? Unless I figure it out, that poor widow is doomed to grieve forever in the pages of that unfinished manuscript.
The next piece of fiction I attempted was in Rubicon Ranch, a collaborative mystery series I’m writing online with other Second Wind authors. My character is Melanie Gray, a writer whose husband died in a car accident, but certain inconsistencies are showing up in the investigation, pointing to something other than an accident. Melanie’s attempts to come to terms with her life and to find the truth of his death are a couple of the unifying themes in the series, though they are not the focus of the stories.
The third piece of fiction I wrote was “The Willow,” a short story I did for Change is in the Wind, a previous Second Wind anthology. My character in that story is a woman who found renewal in the spring of her second year of grief.
My fourth project is a steampunk collaboration I am doing with several authors I met online. It should come as no surprise that my character is grieving woman. The deaths of her husband and his mother are the catalyst for the story, since her father-in-law goes back in time to try to save them. This sentence hints that maybe her grief (and mine) is waning: Flo stood motionless and stared at her husband. She wanted to run to him, to embrace him, but he looked different somehow. Unapproachable. There seemed to be a bit of flabbiness around his middle, a discontented tilt to his head, a defeated slump to his shoulders. What had happened to the radiant young man she remembered? Had her vision of him changed over the past year, become idealized? Or had she stopped seeing the truth of him even before he died?
In the story I am currently writing, the character’s boyfriend doesn’t die. He leaves her. She doesn’t go into paroxysms of grief, at least not much, but she does cut her hair in an entirely unconscious symbol of mourning (so biblical!). I had her lopping off her long tresses more out rebellion than out of sorrow, since he had always demanded that she didn’t change.
It is strange to see such a pattern show up in my writing. From stark grief, to sustained grief, to a semblance of peace, to seeing the deceased as not so perfect, to easing the focus on grief. Apparently, no matter what I write, I am somehow writing my life (though oddly, the characters are getting progressively younger).
I’ll be interested to see what I write next.
September 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm
There is definitely a consistent parallel between an author’s life and the prose they produce, even in the most extreme cases of Fantasy Fiction.
One of the primary lessons taught about Creative Writing is that we should write what we know to produce the most effective pieces; this applies to any genre – I would wager that writers in this fantasy category have some relationship with the unusual creatures or enigmatic, fantastical worlds that they conceive.
September 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm
I’m sure you’re right. At the very least, fantastical characters allow a writer to explore painful emotions at one remove.
September 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Did you know Anne Rice originally wrote “Interview with the Vampire” to capture her feelings on the loss of her father? Look where she is now!
September 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm
No, I didn’t know, but a lot of writers start out that way, working through grief or rage.
September 25, 2012 at 5:10 am
And apparently it works for great storytelling, though you never want to create a great story at the loss of someone you love.
September 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Dear Pat, I’m very excited for you! While grieving takes its own time and its own ways, it is still frustrating sometimes to feel a sort of writer’s block to writing more than one kind of character. This breakthrough should mean that now you can still write about grieving characters when necessary, but other characters are now within your main character repertoire. Enjoy your freedom from heaviness of mind-set (I think that’s the best way I can put it).
September 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm
Thank you. Of course, to develop more than one kind of character, I have to actually get back to writing instead of just nibbling around the edges as I’ve been doing.
September 24, 2012 at 6:38 am
It’s interesting to see how life events influence writers, and to see certain themes running through multiple works of the same writer.
September 24, 2012 at 7:05 am
Me, too, Pat. Although I never lost my soul mate like you did, I almost lost her several times because of MS complications. So I imagined the worst and feared and felt the impending pain. But I did lose 8 people in 5 years, including all grandparents and my dad, plus some close friends. That is what pushed me to write LeGarde Mysteries, where Gus is mourning the loss of his lifetime soulmate (loosely based on my wife, actually), Elsbeth. He does eventually fall for another, although I didn’t intend him to meet or fall for Camille. I gave him four years to mourn before I let that happen, LOL. My wife is the one who insisted he needed a love interest, so I listened to her. I had planned for him to mope around, tending his family and animals and helping solve mysteries in the community. I’m glad she convinced me otherwise, it added a nice element of unrequited love in the first book and a great character to the mix in the follow-ons.
I love your writing, and I admire your ability to write short stories. I can’t do it. They always come out as novels, LOL!
September 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm
I almost lost him about twenty years ago. He was moments away from dying, and I was devasted. Took me three years to get over it, and that’s what I expected to feel when he died, but it was like nothing I have ever felt before. There is no way to explain the terrible feeling of goneness, the total panic of the lizard brain when it does happen. I hope you never have to deal with the real thing. I hope you and your wife lead long, happy lives.
September 25, 2012 at 7:02 am
Thank you, Pat…
September 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm
I’m new here, but I wanted to say that I found this both moving and thought-provoking.
September 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm
Thank you, Carol.