Monday, August 20, 2012

Do You Suffer from...Character Attachment Disorder?

Okay, so I'm nearing the home stretch.  The new book has about 60 pages to go before the first draft is finished.  But in those 60 pages, I have to completely destroy the character's life.  And the lives of her family members, through the choices she makes.

I've noticed my page count dropping slightly per day, ever since I began to approach this final stretch.  And then it hit me...I'm attached to my character.  I don't want to ruin her life.  I don't want to hurt her.  But I have to, because of the bad decisions she's made.

All along, I intended for this story to end a certain way--the end was what I envisioned first.  So I know it has to happen this way.  Everything in the plot leads up to this ending.  I've created the sort of inevitable train wreck you know is coming but can't turn away from.

Yet...I still kind of want to turn away.

Does this happen you guys, too?  Have you ever created a character you enjoyed so much you didn't want to end the story, particularly in a way that harms the character?

This is a tragic story.  Everything is in place for the tragic ending...the foreshadowing, the tone, the language.  Now I'm dreading writing the tragedy because all the character had to do to avoid it was be smart.  But I don't think she's smart in that particular way, so it wouldn't be true to the character to have her save the day instead of ruin it.

*sigh*  On with the final few chapters...let's see what happens when my fingers hit the keys.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blurring the Lines: Fiction vs. Memoir

Have you guys ever written a story that borrows details or experiences from your real life?  I've done this a few times, but mostly for settings.  I wrote a short story that takes place in Africa, and since I'd been to Africa, I used details about the place I stayed to re-create the setting for my character.

No big deal, right?  Right.

But in my new book, I'm going deeper.  I'm using more than a setting--I'm using a lot of detail about my life, my family, the town I was born and raised in.  Of course, this leads to a dilemma.  What's better for fiction....the verisimilitude of details I know to be true, or the flair of details I'm making up as I go?

Let's look at the problem from both angles.

In the red corner, arguing against using personal experiences:
*Real life isn't art.  Fiction is art.  Devote yourself to art to take full advantage of the medium itself.
*You could get sued if you don't differentiate your characters enough from the real people who inspired them.
*At least in my life, the characters I make up are probably more interesting.  (My family is very white-picket-fence.)
*What's the challenge in writing about stuff that actually happened?  Isn't that journalism or memoir?

In the blue corner, arguing for using personal experiences:
*Using real-life details can't help but give the story a true-to-life feel.  The details will feel real because they are real.
*Writing about people who are, essentially, my family members makes it easier to focus on plot and language.  The characterizations are done for me.
*Remember in Little Women, when Jo wrote trashy Ivanhoe-style stories about things she knew nothing about and they only got rejected, and then she wrote her own story, the story about herself and her sisters, and it was amazing?

So what do you think?  What do you do when it's time to write?  Do you use your memories and experiences as a source, or do you push them away and dive into the unknown?