Friends of mine know that I've been spending time trying to learn to write better fiction. I'm skilled at expository writing - I do it nearly every day, but fiction is a whole 'nuther realm and what I hadn't anticipated is what a strange emotional journey it is and I'm only getting started.
The first obstacle is just allowing your imagination to run away and to not automatically restrain it. It was kind of a shock for me to discover what an internal governor I have on my imagination. I think it's part societal and part self protection.
The societal one is obvious. I should be doing something more productive with my time and I only allow myself brief flights of fancy. To tell myself to stay in that imaginative place takes a surprising amount of effort as I almost feel guilty about it and I am not Catholic.
The self protection one is more complicated.
For a good story to happen a character has to overcome a challenge of some sort. This means that Bad Things (tm) need to happen to them. I find this is really hard. I care about the characters I have created and I don't like to see them in pain. But without pain or at least something not good there is no story and there is no growth and things get really boring.
One easy out is to turn it into fighting some sort of injustic and not an emotional wrong but it all comes down to emotional stuff sooner or later. I should not protect them or myself.
But there's another aspect that I hadn't counted on. When I'm not depressed, I am usually pretty optimistic. I usually don't consider the worst that could happen and I'm now realizing that I do this out of sanity preservation. But as a writer, you have to go to those places even though you scare the crap out of yourself sometimes.
Just today I was imagining what if someone in the house collapsed with a heart attack and needed CPR.
CPR needs to be continuous, but you also need to
- get the phone and dial 911
- unlock the door so that a paramedic can get in
- oh and crate or leash the dog who is going to bite any "intruder" who walks into through the door uninvited.
- and remember CPR needs to be continuous or they could die. Ah fuck.
Right around now I usually swap into "don't be silly mode" and go on with life. As a writer, I need to consider what that would be like even as my normally excellent blood pressure starts to climb. You have to allow that paranoia to work its way in.
And also right around now I marvel at how anyone can do this. Especially those who write about pain or death and dying. They are to be admired for their emotional fortitude and good boundaries.