I've spent the last eight months living with this novel I tentatively named PRODIGAL, and it took an appalling amount of time for me to really connect with the main character. When I wrapped up revisions last week, though, I cried writing the last scene, and I realized that somewhere along the way, I'd fallen in love with her. She became real in a way that I was sad when she was sad, and joyful when she triumphed.
She is the kind of character that changes. Those are my favorite to write, and while I knew this is what I was setting out to do, it was an entirely different thing to watch it unfold as it did. She starts out wounded, a victim of childhood abuse and neglect, betrayed by everyone she dares to love or trust, until she runs away to find a new life. In her new life, she makes herself what she wants it to be.
And in writing, I think initially I thought this was her rebirth. She left, and she made a new life for herself. But as the story developed I realized this isn't at all what happened. She left, and this new life was just a cover, a way to ignore the things of the past. She ran away from not only her home, but herself.
And in coming back home, she finds herself again. She grapples with the choices made by others that scarred her, and the choices she made herself that nearly destroyed her. She finds herself with new choices, harder ones, ones that require her to redefine what love is, and what family is, and what home is... and who she is.
This week I heard this song, and it immediately made me think of her. Here are some of the lyrics:
"There's a girl in the corner With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered And the shame she can't hide
She says, "How did I get here? I'm not who I once was.
And I'm crippled by the fear That I've fallen too far to love"
But don't you know who you are, What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?
You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade."
Watch the chalkboard. It's incredible. And see if you don't see yourself in there somewhere too.