Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Living In the Dark Places
The kids were playing in my usual writing space, so I took my laptop out to my front porch to enjoy the weather while I wrote. The section of writing I'm working on is probably the hardest part in the book to write: the aftermath of a murder – and I thought the bright sun would balance the darkness of the book.
As is typical, the kids gradually discovered I was missing and came to find me. They are like moths to a flame when I'm writing. No matter where I go to get some quiet, they manage to seek me out to play around me anyway. As a writer, that's frustrating. As a mom, it's kinda cool.
So my two bookend kids decided to ride bikes, and my middle child decided to read a book on the bench next to me: a book she had just borrowed from the library the day before.
I'd warned her it was probably too easy for her. The problem with her is that she's a fourth grader reading at a sixth grade level, and books at her level aren't really her subject cup-of-tea. She like the things written for her age. So she sat and read and I wrote, and in less than 30 minutes she'd finished the book. THE WHOLE BOOK!!
And you know what my first reaction was? Not "Wow! Good job!" Not "You're an awesome reader!"
No, my first response was: "Do you know how long it probably took that author to write that book? It probably took her longer to write the first page than it took you to read the whole thing!"
She rolled her eyes at me and decided to go ride her bike.
But this is where I am right now, in that middle ground between writing like a writer, and writing like a reader.
My book has a dark part. A murder. It's not the crux of the book. It's a turning point but not the central part. This is not a crime book or mystery book. And my hope is that when a reader reads it, they will flit over these pages so they are but a drop in the bucket of the story. They won't wallow in the darkness of it but it will merely be a catalyst for getting on in the journey of the main characters.
And yet.... as a writer, it takes more than flitting to make the pages work. Everything in me is screaming, "get in, get out!" as I'm writing it. I don't want to stay in this place anymore than my characters do.
I started having nightmares about it two nights ago. Gory, terrible, graphic nightmares. And I woke up and thought, I have to change the murder weapon. Not that the reader will care. Not that the reader will even know what the murder weapon is (I haven't decided how in depth to go about the deaths...I'd like to keep it more to the characters that live and less about the crime). But I know. I care. And even though I'd already decided what happened, I changed my mind because I couldn't live in that space while writing it. Even if it takes the reader only minutes to read those sections of the book, it is taking me longer to write them, to research them, to make sure I'm getting the details right.
My hope is, if I do it right, the reader will get the weight of the scene, but not stay there.
As for me, I'm hoping to be over this scene today or tomorrow and move on as well. After all, this gorgeous spring weather can only last so long.