Monday, July 9, 2012

Black Moments - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em - They Make The Story Memorable

This morning I feel like a character in someone else’s story, and I don’t want to cooperate. I don’t like the direction the author is taking me.

Don’t you hate it when your characters do that to you?

Whether you’re a plotter or a panster your characters occasionally rebel. That’s what I’m doing this morning. Chucking my training schedule and saying, "No. I'm not running today." 


Over the years, I've written thousands of words only to discover my planning or lack thereof had dug me into a hole. The story wasn’t working, and I had to back up and try a different approach.

Delete. Cry. Delete. Cry some more.

You know the feeling. You save the deleted pages in a folder. Maybe someday you’ll be able to use them.  

My body feels like it’s in the Deleted Pages Folder. I ran 16 miles on Saturday. Well, I didn’t actually run them all, but I traveled on foot 16 miles. By mile 10, my knees started hurting. This was new pain for me. By mile 11, my shins started hurting. At that point, I had been run/walking for 2.5 hours and  had another 1.5 hours to go.

Before I left home at 5:45 a.m., I took two 12-hour Aleves. I couldn’t imagine how much more I would have hurt without the drug in my system to relieve the pain in my swollen joints. It didn’t matter whether I walked or ran, pain shot up and down my legs. It occurred to me that this wasn’t what I signed up for. Stop the madness, I want a new story.  

“Sorry, Kathy, but this is it.” 

Isn’t that what we do as writers? Make our characters suffer. We tap our fingers against the keyboard thinking how we can make life worse for our heroes and heroines. When we figure that out, we make their lives even more difficult.  

“Hey, you think 16-miles were tough. Wait until I write the pages that have you running 20.”  

“Jees, thanks.” I’m seeing a black moment in my future. I’m guessing it will start at about mile 18 when I want to sit down and cry, believing I can’t take another step, but I’ll struggle on because that’s what I do. I dig deeper and put one foot in front of the other. 

Writers sometimes have to go to that place, that painful place deep inside. That’s where the emotion comes from that we pour out onto the page—the emotion that grabs our readers. If we can’t deliver, we haven’t done our job. 

I don’t like going to that place, dredging up painful memories. Neither do I like being at mile 15 and hurting like heck. But to get the results we want, we push through the pain. Is it worth it? For me, reaching the corner of Alumni and Chinoe on Saturday and hearing a voice in my ear say, “Mile 16.0.” Yes, it was worth it. There are several scenes in THE RUBY BROOCH where I had a similar reaction. The right words dropped in the right order in the right paragraph, and I cried.   

Celebrations and accomplishments come with cheers and tears but they rarely come without some kind of sacrifice. I don’t understand why I’m pushing this old body to run 26.2 miles, but neither did I understand why I had to write those painful scenes. It hurt like hell, and I’m not masochist, so why?  

Because it’s what I do.

Because it’s who I am.  

Because I’ve learned through hard work and sacrifice that I will be a better, stronger version of me.  

And one day, I might actually become the person God created me to be.  

Happy writing and running, Kathy    

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