I have run into a most unusual problem.
I am writing a story that I wanted to write because it was interesting to me. It is a piece that pushes my boundaries as a writer in a new way. It is something that I said I would never write because the market is over-saturated with the subject, but I was inspired and have taken the subject matter in a different direction from anything that I have ever seen.
No, you can’t know what it’s about yet. It’s not even on the “My Books” page here because I have just under a chapter written as of this blog post and I don’t wanna spoil it.
Anyway, the main character, I guess she is the protagonist, insofar as you could say that this particular story has one, is going through hell. She is a good person, overall. She comes from a well-to-do family but she chooses to be different, to not be the spoiled brat that everyone expects her to be. So she has this major change of heart very early on in the story.
She is a likable character. I like her. I like writing her. I have liked giving her a past, despite her future currently looking very, VERY bleak.
And this brings me to the problem. I have gotten accidentally attached to her. I tried very hard to just tell myself that she is a work of fiction, that she exists in my head and that she is not real. Her suffering is not real. Unfortunately, to me, when I am writing about her, she is as real as I am.
And I like her.
So my dilemma basically boils down to the fact that she is essentially being tortured by the story. Bad things happen, very bad things, and she suffers greatly throughout the novel. That makes it sound very dark and horrible, but there’s no other way to describe her situation without spoiling the book. I guess that I can clarify that it is not literal torture, but the events that happen are torturous to read.
And very hard to write.
As I said in my previous blog, I have a set of core beliefs that define who I am underneath all the pompous swagger and posturing that I seem to put on. I’m not a bad person. I don’t advocate violence towards others. Or violence in general. But this story is brutal and graphic. I have done a lot of research, still am doing some of that research, and the gritty realism I hope, will show through in the work. And I am not ashamed to be writing this at all. It is an interesting story and her suffering is not brought on by another person, technically, unless you count me.
My problem is that I have connected with this character, despite knowing that she isn’t real to anyone but me. I feel that I have portrayed her and built her up in my head enough to make her believable and I hope that it will translate well into the story. That is the ultimate goal for any story, right? Anyway, I am sitting here with my notes, with my story for this person – I am gonna call her Jane Doe for now – and I am having a difficult time.
Jane doesn’t deserve what I am writing about. Jane is a relatively good person. She does things with altruism in mind and even when things are at their worst, she is thinking about other people, rather than herself.
So here I sit, staring at this work that I am putting so much thought and love and care into, knowing that part of the story will be exposition with the intent to make my readers love Jane Doe as much as I do, and then the brutal, life changing problem arises and your hearts all break. That is the goal. I want to give a different perspective, but in order to do this, I have to suffer along with Jane.
And I AM suffering. I am having so much trouble writing this part that I can only manage to write maybe a paragraph at a time. I never really thought of myself as a delicate person, or that I have ‘delicate sensibilities’ but there are things that honestly make my stomach turn. And writing this sad, heartbreaking part of the story is one of them.
The point, I suppose, is that I am looking for advice.
How do you distance yourself from a character you have made and love and is only (currently) real to you so that you can sleep at night? And how shall I distance myself enough from her to keep going on with the story without making myself cry?
I KNOW the suffering isn’t real. I KNOW that Jane Doe isn’t real. I KNOW that this is fiction, and that I am the one creating this world and this story, and that I could, theoretically change it at any time, but I am still connected. I am still allowing it to happen in my own megalomaniac sort of way.
So how do I make this bearable to write?