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Monday, December 26, 2016

When You're a Writer...

I have serious abandonment issues.  I don't do well when people are no longer in my life.  

And I will freak if a television show I happen to enjoy runs it's course and is ended.  M*A*S*H brought that to my attention when I was a child.

I just finished binge-watching the final two seasons of Burn Notice.  I held off from doing so for over a year because I didn't want to end the show.  I really loved the characters.  Plus, that show held some other special meanings for me.

When Burn Notice first started airing, I was homeless.  A friend was nice enough to let me crash at his place and eventually I became his roomie.  There was something about that show.  We sat and watched the pilot episode and the second one right after.  For me, the character had this wonderful outlook at situations, and I could apply it to my everyday life.

Nothing is a failure, it just means a detour to success.  My life had been torn apart and I had no options.  I needed to hear that message.

Saying goodbye to those characters meant putting a chapter of my own life in the past and that's not easy to do.  I'll admit I cling to the past way too strongly than is healthy.  I try not to, but I do.

Great characters aren't easy to create and keeping them around long enough for the audience to develop a relationship with them is even harder.  When I think about the books I've read with characters I really understood, and enjoyed, I can only come up with a handful.

I'll admit that I've held off reading the final few chapters of books just so I didn't have to end the story.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye.  They taught me something.  Entertainment isn't that big of a deal to me.  I'm easily entertained.

No, characters who teach me something about life, or how to be a better human being, are what matter to me.

When I was in high school, I read Once a Warrior King by David Donovan.  It was the memoirs of a US Army officer in Vietnam.  I've said before that when I was a kid, things weren't very easy for me, and I was in some deep trouble as a person.  Between the home life, school, and something darker I won't get into, I was a wreck.  I had no tools for survival.

Back in the late 80's, America was beginning to come to grips with our legacy from Vietnam.  There were a lot of books and movies out there.  I had read a few but this one really spoke to me.  I learned more about courage and about being your own person.  There were lessons in this book--ugly lessons that I took to heart.  This book got me through some tough times.

Knowing that somebody could survive situations like that, where people were trying to kill you, and still keep your humanity was important.  As a teen, I suspected my dad was trying to destroy me.  As an adult in his 40's, I'm certain of it.  There's a darkness that develops when that happens.  How could somebody want to destroy me?  What did I do?  I must have done something because people don't just randomly want to destroy you.  Donovan's book helped me wade through all of that and focus on just surviving.  

I put off reading the last couple of chapters of Donovan's book for a few weeks.  I carried it in my backpack everywhere I went.  I read a couple of other books while it sat there.  And every day I would ask myself if I was ready to finish this.

When you're a writer, you have a responsibility to leave the reader with something more than a laugh and visions of naked women or blood.  You have to leave the reader with a lesson about life.  Those lessons get wrapped up in the final chapters and the reader has to follow you all the way to the end. The final episodes, the final chapters, the final credits.  It all comes down to the end and then people you've grown accustomed to walking away.

It's a horrible feeling to have somebody walk away.  Sure, they've given you something special, but they're gone.  It almost seems mean-spirited of the writer to have done that to us.  A terrible trick on our emotions.

I'll admit I read Battlefield Earth in high school.  Frankly, I raced to finish it.  I enjoyed it, yes, but not enough to read all of those other tomes he wrote.  There just wasn't that lesson.  It was raw survival on an elemental level.

It's hard to say goodbye to the good characters but what makes them so good?  Why do they grow on us?  It's a puzzle sometimes.

I miss Hunter S. Thompson.  There are times when I feel we, as a society, need him more than ever. It wasn't the laughs, it wasn't the witty remarks, it was the razor blades of truth he used to eviscerate the deserving.  There was something incredibly human about him.  He wasn't a character, he was a man.  Just like Donovan, he was a real person, and he taught me something.

None of my characters have a Happily Ever After ending.  Life is not like that.  I feel I'm being honest to my readers and to the characters themselves but in the end, those characters leave.  I don't like doing it, but it has to be done, and in my world we follow the rules.  Even if he saved the world and rescued the little boy with cancer from the monsters, he cannot be allowed to stay, because that's just how it works.

They leave me.  They always leave.

I have real problems with Happily Ever After and when you're a writer, you have to be honest with your endings.  Life isn't all that great.  Sometimes, you get a nice ending, but Happily Ever After is a lie we tell our readers as a reward for finishing the book.

But I'm going to end this post with a Happily Ever After.

"He clicked the 'publish' button and everybody lived Happily for the next week."

That's the best I can do for now.  Sorry.




1 comment:

  1. May your favorite characters live on in your heart. Sometimes, I dream about mine. :)

    ReplyDelete