Friday, November 16, 2007

Death in Real Life

I'm sitting here tonight, thinking about the funeral service I'll be attending on Monday.

When someone dies, we get reminded of the finite part of this life. Of the limited amount of time we have to place our stamp and leave something behind--hopefully of an encouraging and enduring nature.

For many of us, we can put our faith in our Faith and go from there, with confidence in The Promise. But for those of us who have things about this life we love, we also think about what we'll leave behind--and miss.

Emotions as wild as any white-water rapid are tumbling through me right now. And today, more than ever, I want the words and deeds to comfort those most immediately effected by loss. No amount of knowledge of craft helps--I can only trust God to give them to me.

As novelists, in any genre, I suggest we not let these ideas fall far from our thoughts. To remember, especially in the midst of struggle, our larger-than-life hero and/or heroine, needs to run up against their own mortality and the kaleidoscope of thoughts they (we) often fight to squelch. Those very feelings are likely to make our writing more powerful and our readers more convicted in our characters, and thereby our story.

This task is not for the weak. I've written there before. You'll be calling up things from your gut you'd rather leave alone and buried. You'll cry until there are no more tears left, and you feel sucked of every atom that made you human. You'll wonder where some of the words and feelings came from--certainly not from you.

But in the end, you'll be better for it. Even if those words, from your depths, end up on the cutting room floor. There are times for restraint, and times for letting loose. If you need to cut, fine--you've vented. If it works with your story and you can keep it, you have something that will touch your reader.

It's all better with friends.

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