Facets of Freedom

It seem fitting that I’ve begun working on my poor stalled novel at a time when we are celebrating freedom. This book was supposed to be my declaration of independence from the dictates of the publishing industry, a story so silly it had no chance of ever being published. Oddly, somewhere along the way, the book metamorphosed from a whimsical story into something deeply metaphysical with a heavy theme: freedom vs. safety. More specifically, the book explores how much freedom we are willing to give up for safety and how much safety we are willing to give up for freedom.

Robert McfireworksKee, author of Story, wrote: “The revelation of true character in contradiction to characterization (the sum of all observable qualities) is fundamental to all fine storytelling. What seems is not what is. People are not what they appear to be. A hidden nature waits concealed behind the facade of traits.”

If my hero doesn’t know what he truly wants until he gets it, it will add another dimension to this theme. He first chooses freedom because he believes he wants freedom more than anything. Next he chooses incarceration and safety because survival becomes the most important thing to him. Then he chooses the excitement and danger of freedom over the boredom of safety because he wants to feel alive, to participate in creation, if only to create himself. Finally he accepts responsibility, which is a different facet of freedom (without responsibility, freedom is merely self-indulgence), and it turns out this is what he wanted all along.

By giving Chip an inner character in contradiction to his outer one, he should become a richer character, which in turn will allow the story to explore all the facets of the theme rather than the simple one of freedom vs. safety.

At least that’s the plan.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Wahoo! My Hero is in the Zoo.

Whew. A year and a half after beginning to write my fifth novel, I have the first of three parts finished.

The book is a whimsically humorous apocalyptic novel with a heavy theme: how much freedom we are willing to give up for safety and how much safety we are willing to give up for freedom. When the world goes through a time of re-creation, most human survivors opt to go to a place of refuge, which turns out to be a human zoo, but my hero, Chip, wants to preserve his freedom at all costs. Or almost all costs. He deals with killer toads, giant bugs, growing volcanoes, and a multitude of other traumas, but he cannot deal with the end of his stash of hard candy.

I am a slow writer, but this first part progressed slowly even by my standards. The circumstances of the book caused part of the problem — poor Chip had to traverse most of the 100 pages by himself, which is a hard task for any writer. Characters — and writers — need other characters to bounce off to bring interest, conflicts, and twists to the story. And personal circumstances caused the rest of the problem: life and death (not mine) got in the way, as did learning how to use a computer, learning the internet, editing my books for publication, proofing them, learning how to promote. (Though I wonder about the last — does anyone ever learn how to promote, or do we just paddle around until our books finally sink or swim?)

But, word by word, sentence by sentence, I got those pages written, and my hero is finally safe. Now I have to start over with a new set of problems for Chip — and me. Somehow I have to get him to the point where he wants to give up safety for freedom, but after all his trauma, I’m not sure how to goad him. I thought of making the place of refuge ultimately an unsafe place, but while it would get him out of there, it would not serve the theme.

Sorry to cut this short, but I have to go introduce Chip to some of his fellow inmates. Should be interesting. In the first part Chip had too few people to deal with, now he has too many.

I can hardly wait to see what happens.