Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Find the pain

"Find the pain," one of my characters instructs another.

There are moments in life that are so piercing that even their memory seems to puncture the fabric of daily life. Sitting on a pew during a service. A child digging the hard ground behind his house to bury a pet. A handshake offered, and accepted in surprise as rancor melts away. Final goodbyes. First hellos. Absent friends.

These moments spur narrative, spark character development. They are the electricity, the fire that makes a story burn and smolder; the embers of a warm life.

Too many of these can overwhelm a story just as they can, I suspect, overwhelm a life. But we should not shy away from them in fiction or in life because they make us who we are; they are the thorny structures we hang a story on, bleeding and desperately alive.

I say this because I realize my characters have been shying away from the rawness of both pain and joy. No more! Within reason -- always this balance, within reason -- I will find the pain in their stories and weave it into the larger narrative.

We cannot always control these moments in our own lives, but reading about them in a book may provide some comfort, or at least companionship.

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