About two months ago I began writing a short story about a woman who has recently run away from her established life to avoid facing a very traumatic loss. I’ve laid the foundation of the story, building up the aspects of her character. Some hints have been given as to the nature of her loss. Her character flaws are beginning to appear.
I spend a lot of time getting familiar with this character. Thinking about her as though she were someone who I’ve known for a while now. I love this character and I feel like she has something very important to discover. She’s about to experience some deep conflict. Her flaws are about to begin to disrupt her sense of safety. It’s hard to know that she has to crumble down her defenses in order to rebuild.
I don’t have a lot of experience writing fiction because I’ve always been a bit afraid to put myself out there. It’s easier for me as a non-fiction blogger to say, “I did this, it was hard, I learned this…” because I don’t have to write about it until it’s been tied up neatly on the other side of the conflict. But reading fiction, in particular the short stories of T.C. Boyle, Annie Dillard, Tim O’Brien and others has moved me to want to chance it myself. This blog post doesn’t get to be from the view-point of “I learned this… let me share it with you.” This blog post is from the middle of my own conflict.
I don’t want to bring my character through the pain this story has in store for her. I know how much she will hurt and how hard it will be to live it with her with honesty and integrity. It is the same emotional block that has prevented me from being a believable actor when I was younger, and from trying to write difficult fiction in college. To tell the truth you have to feel it. And to feel it you have to hurt. To write a real character you have to love her. And to love her, you have to suffer when she suffers.
Can I do that? Would someone out there give me the courage to try?