Saturday, May 28, 2016

When My Own Book Makes Me Cry

A Difficult Process

I have to admit that I've had something of a love-hate relationship with my current work in progress. I mentioned in a couple of previous posts that my first book, Amelia's Children, flowed out of me with relative ease. I completed the writing portion in just three months and had it published a couple of months after that. This new book, Primogénito, has been more of a challenge. There is so much backstory and the paranormal element required so much research on my part before I even started writing that in the beginning I kept getting bogged down in the details. Some days I didn't even want to write at all because I knew that before I did I'd have to do about a dozen Google searches and read passages from about a dozen different books just to makes sure I was getting everything correct. For a while this really slowed down the writing process.

In Love With My Characters

This is the driving force for all of my writing. I have to love the characters or I don't want to write about them. More specifically, I have to be head over heels in love with my primary male character. In Amelia's Children, that character was David, (though by the end I was also kind of digging Sarah's brother Will too). In the new book my favorite character is Damian Fuentes.

A Complicated History

The story revolves around Damian, his wife Jenn, their friend Ashley, and Ashley's husband Nick. There's an extensive back story that gradually comes out over the course of the book involving a traumatic event that the four of them lived through five years previously. Though Damian and Jenn were dating at the time, it was Ashley he turned to for comfort during the first few weeks after everything went down. Jenn never fully recovered from the pain of seeing the man she loved open up to another woman while simultaneously withdrawing from his own girlfriend.

A New Crisis

After moving to a new town and spending the past five years trying to put their lives back together, Damian and Jenn are pulled back into the darkness of their past when Ashley shows up on their doorstep, informing them of another crisis and begging for Damian's help. Jenn doesn't want him to get involved, but Damian feels responsible for what's happening and has to try and fix it. This causes the four of them to once again confront demons they thought were long dead. Along the way they also have to deal with feelings about their complex relationship with each other.

Something of a Love Triangle

A major factor in the story is the fact that Damian and Ashley were a couple before they married their respective spouses. Jenn's jealousy of Ashley and Nick's jealousy of Damian become recurring themes as the story unfolds. Though Damian no longer has romantic feelings for Ashley, still it hurts Jenn to see them together.

Because it is my mother's favorite movie, I saw Gone With the Wind about a hundred times over the course of my childhood. I practically have the whole thing memorized. So it's only natural that I think of Gone With the Wind as I write my own story about an Ashley who threatens the marriage of the two main characters. That's not why I named her Ashley, though. I already had her named before I came up with the love triangle dynamic. I didn't even know that Ashley and Damian had a past relationship until I finished writing chapter two. I certainly was not trying to write a tribute to Gone With the Wind.

Jenn's Greatest Fear

Jenn is afraid of much more than just losing her husband to an old flame. There are much darker forces at work in this story than marital strife. The things Damian is required to do in order to help Ashley with her new problem could prove extremely dangerous and Jenn wants no part of it. She wants Damian to walk away so they can live their lives in peace, but she knows he would not be the man she loves if he did that, so she has to let go and let him do what is in his nature to do, even though she knows it might mean losing him forever.

An Iconic Scene

Back to Gone With the Wind for a moment. Remember that scene at the end when Rhett has finally had enough and decides to leave Scarlett for good? Yeah, I'm talking about the "Frankly, my dear..." scene. It's impossible to watch that scene without feeling all the despair Scarlett feels as she watches her husband, a man she's only just realized she's madly in love with, walk away for the last time. Though you understand why he does it, still you want him to come back to her and tell her everything will be alright.

My Own Scarlett and Rhett Scene

Just this week I found myself writing a scene that kept reminding me of this final goodbye between Scarlett and Rhett. Again, I did not set out to write any kind of tribute. What is happening between Damian and Jenn is pretty much inevitable given where the story has taken them up to this point. I've made it to the scene where he finally understands what he has to do in order to solve Ashley's problem, and he's going off to do it. Jenn is begging him to stay home because she knows how dangerous a quest this is going to be, but he goes anyway, leaving her standing, in tears, in the doorway of their house. As I was writing it I kept closing my eyes and seeing Rhett walking away while Scarlett cried for him to return, so I thought, "Hey, if ever there was an appropriate moment for a Gone With the Wind reference, it's here." So I wrote, "Jenn watched him, feeling a bit like Scarlett O'Hara watching Rhett Butler disappear into the mist. All for the sake of someone named Ashley."

In Tears Now

I don't know why, but writing that line made me cry. I guess it's because I'm already feeling all the tension between Damian and Jenn, so as she watches him leave I'm crying along with her. And maybe it's partly from some element of nostalgia for all those lazy afternoons spent with my mom watching her favorite film. Maybe it's because it is such a powerful scene from such a classic movie. I don't know. All I know is that it has reduced me to tears and has made me fall even more deeply in love with my characters than I already was.

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