Most of you know that I’m writing a book. Heaven knows I’ve made enough noise about it. I’ve written three books already, but this is different. Harder. Or if it isn’t actually more difficult, I’m more insecure about it. The first three books were about things I’ve been teaching for years and know, but this one is “fiction” — although I have to admit that that it feels like the story is already there and I’m just writing it down.
My first beta reader (who prefers to be anonymous) has commented a couple of times on the delightful slowness of the story and the wonderful world that Marzipan (main character) lives in and how he’d like to live there himself. Of course, that made me wonder if it was too slow, if it didn’t have enough action fast enough. The second reader definitely wanted it to move faster. So did I because I “knew” it “ought” to, but it just wasn’t happening.
What should have been the next bit with lots of action somehow just kept getting put off while the characters went on with their daily lives, caring for and about each other while we got to know them better. Finally, it had to be acknowledged that I just didn’t want bad things to happen to Marzipan! I just kept wanting her to be happy! Silly me… I told the first beta reader this, and he replied, “Actually, I’ll bet there are a lot of people who’d agree, and would be quite content if your book had no conflict. Especially with today’s conflicted world whirling around us.”
Reading this brought me to a total halt. YES! But…
All of the rules you hear about writing stories are against this. As we talked a bit more about it, we did realize that there was a difference between “conflict” and “danger” — but even so I found it difficult to make her unhappy or to let her get hurt. But I knew I had to have adventures for her. So I finally wrote the part where she gets frightened to bits. But this turned out rather like when I tried to make a tarot deck and the Lightning-Struck Tower kept being insipid instead of scary. Same problem.
However, having recognized the issue, I can do what I did then — do it over and over until it’s finally right. It doesn’t have to be rough and tough enough in my first try.
Today, while looking for something else, I happened across a Youtube video. Jon Favreau, President Obama’s speechwriter, was given the James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of the University College Dublin. He began with something very important, emphasizing how we are surrounded by “bad news” constantly. These are often things we can do nothing about — earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, climate change, seemingly endless wars, and all the rest of it. He went on to say that what we need is stories that give us hope so we won’t just fold up and die. Such stories are what give us the courage to keep trying to do our best.
Right away, I got this. What all these people have done is to give me the courage to go on, and hopefully, ultimately, I hope Marzipan’s story will indirectly help others to see that same hope in their own lives and have the courage to keep trying. When all we have is hope, it’s very important to hang on to it. This is no time to be a pessimist. So, I’m writing this story to show us how, hopefully, we can learn to be better and kinder to each other. There are small things each of us can do and attitudes we can hold that will help us make our own lives better. It may not save the world, but who knows what difference it actually will make?
And I suspect that these things may be the foundations on which we can build much bigger things that are solid enough to keep growing.
The video is at: