Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dumbfounded by Death

It has become a difficulty for me in my writing, killing off characters. Even if the story lends itself to a character's well plotted demise, I always find myself choking up on the actual act. My hands stay the keys, my mind going "Wait, this is fiction, you can break the boundaries of life and death, your character can live on!!" Perhaps my mind has a point. Isn't one of the blessings of fiction just that? Escape from reality.
On a personal level, death has unfortunately played an overbearing role in my life. Having lost my mother shortly before my 8th birthday, I have always tiptoed around the subject in my writing. In my imaginings, even when I killed off characters in my head, I always found a loophole to bring them back, because I couldn't imagine them truly gone. Truthfully it hasn't been until quite recently, say the last couple of years where I find I can write a realistic death scene. Well almost. I seem to have Karen Eiffel syndrome.

For those not in the know, Karen Eiffel is the writer from the film Stranger Than Fiction, who when confronted face to face with her "fictional character" Harold Crick, has a bit of a problem as she set writing the story to kill him.

Like Ms. Eiffel, once I meet my character's face to face as it were, I feel like a murderer. Even more so, how can you kill a character that would so nobly go to meet their demise as Harold Crick chooses to do in the end? I am having this same problem with the story I wish to complete for my thesis. My main character is dying from the beginning of the story, I know this, I felt she was sick when she first stepped foot on the page but she is one who would nobly go to face her death. Which is why I have yet to successfully write of her departure.
And I am feeling the tickle of similar difficulty as I work on Blue Zone. Except this sensation is different, mainly because I don't know if death works properly in this world. I think the Blue Zone, unlike my other novel, is a place where I can break more rules. It is one of the great gifts writing offers a writer, the license to bend and break our own rules, provided it makes sense to us. So perhaps I might have to write a death scene in Blue Zone, but maybe not too far down the road, I can follow it with a nice resurrection scene.


Karen Romano Young said...

I just finished reading Going Bovine, about a teenage boy who gets mad cow disease. Very odd book. Won the Printz award, but I have questions about that! Would you like me to spoil it for you by telling you what happens? Okay, here goes. (If not, stop reading.
. or keep going down
. down
. down
. etc.
. Okay, he meets an angel. She's kind of hot. He transfers his lust for life (and sex) from a human girl to her in a weird series of scenes in which the human girl falls short and the angel takes up the slack. The story switches over from him going out of life to him reaching toward the angel. You go completely inside the character, only getting vague gliimpses of his family's attempts to say goodbye to him, etc. When he dies, the angel comes and takes him with her, and they both lived happily ever after.
It's absurd, but I suppose it works for the story -- and possibly for the character, since mad cow disease does take your mind bit by bit.
I loved Stranger Than Fiction.

With Blue Zone, don't witches have immortality to a degree? I'm eager to hear where you're going with your story.

Krazydiamond said...

I am trying to finish up my chapter to send to you which was delayed by a trip to the hospital. My apologies I really didn't want it to be late but c'est la vie. Actually I am sending you a couple of "chapters" though they are not sequential. One is finishing up and extending the chapter three I orginally sent you and another is basically the back story of Felix, which I started writing when I got home from the hospital last night. I should be sending both to you tonight and again my apologies.

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