The inside of my writer’s belly is tight with uncertainty. Unnerved with the thought that maybe, in the pursuit to write for my own pleasure, I risk placing others in the crossfire-particular the ones I love most. Here’s how the story goes:
The novel I’m so desperately trying to finish is about a woman, a married woman, who is going through a rough patch (to say the least). With her husband. With her kids. With her day-to-day life. But mostly, with herself. Its not an unhappy story, really. Just a very honest one.
Now, I am a married woman. And I have kids. And like my troubled protagonist, I have a day-to-day life. And on more than a few occasions, that life has miserably crawled through rough patches. So it is no surprise to me that when I hand my husband a short stack of pages I’m particularly proud of, there is a fair chance that he will question how “made up” my main character is. Now, will he come out and say, “hey, um, just curious…did this actually happen? Are you Veronica?” No! Of course he won’t say that. That would be insulting to my writer’s ego. He would be questioning my creative range. Belittling my talents. But…seriously, he says, is this you? And the husband, is that me? And this other character, who does that represent? How much are you pulling from real life experiences? …Just curious.
Normally, I smile at this. I shake my head, roll my eyes, and assure everyone (and myself) that my work is a fantasy. Every word. Every scene. Every detail. Made up. But then the smile fades, and I start to wonder. …is it?
I guess the truth is, when you write-what-you-know, honesty is bound to surface whether you’ve meant it to or not. And that can be a real internal struggle for a writer, especially when you know for certain that (if you plan on publishing) the people you know and love and respect are eventually going to read your work. You start thinking, “Oh my God! What will they think? What will they assume? What will the elementary school teacher’s say? (Oh, THAT’S the kid whose mom wrote that book?) Or other moms? (Did you read the part where Veronica fantasizes about the neighbor and…you know…face-down on her mattress?) Or my husband’s co-workers? HIS BOSS?!?! (Um, yeah, that book that your wife wrote…does she really feel that way? And that husband character, is that supposed to be you? Just curious.)
Now, my novel is a work of FICTION. Period. But I won’t deny that I utilize empathy when I’m creating my characters and the situations they fall into. And that’s great for me because its therapeutic and, frankly, strangely fascinating for me. I LIKE that I can take a situation I’ve been in and mold it into a what if. And I LOVE that I can say things behind the mask of a character, because it’s a character. It’s safe. Excusable. But what about the people in the crossfire, the ones I love who will have to defend that it’s fiction? It’s not just my life. It’s not just me whose having to explain my work. Its them, too. My husband. My family. My friends. My God, my kids! They’ll have to defend me when someone asks them if their mom is “really like that”. Does she really think those things that her character said?
This whole shpeel sounds like I wrote some sadistic perverse novel. I didn’t. I guess I just feel insecure because I’ve come to the realization that all my characters (all of them, male and female) are a part of me. Their words are my words. Subconsciously or not, and fiction regardless, I have written a novel that is very REVEALING and that’s incredibly scary. It makes me feel hugely vulnerable, but more so, it makes me want to press DELETE DELETE DELETE for fear that my writing could be thoroughly misunderstood by not only my reader, but by my sole supporters. My husband and children. My blood. My everything! Will I have to defend my work to them, as well?
These are such shitty thoughts. And I know, deep down, it all doesn’t matter. I do what I love. And my family and friends support me. I just need to make sure I’m supporting them back. Every once in awhile, I need to stop and say, “Hey, is this ok? Are you ok with me creating these characters and telling this story? …Just curious.”