Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . The Hard Way

I don't often post purely writing-related articles on my blog, and I'll try to make this one not just that, too, since I know only a few of you are writers. But as I'm revising and editing A Soft Breath of Wind, I keep thinking about some of the decisions I made in the story, and why I did it the way I did.

As a general rule, we writers are told to arrive late to the story, when the main action is upon them. As a general rule, I do just that. And since the main body of my story takes place when Zipporah is 18, that's where I kept trying to start it. Over and again I attempted to begin this book there. I even had a few chapters written, one focused upon Zipporah on the villa outside Rome, then one with Benjamin and Samuel, my two male leads, in Jerusalem.

But when I came back to it, I knew it was wrong. And though it followed that "late arrival" rule, it was wrong because it was the easy way. It skipped over the turmoil that set them on their current course and picked up when the pain had eased.

That wasn't going to cut it.

So though it required going back four years in time, I started earlier. I started on the day Zipporah received the gift that scarred her for life and set her future on its course. I then moved to a death in the family that set all my main characters reeling.

I did it because it hurt. And because without that hurt, my characters wouldn't have become who I needed them to be. Sometimes it works to just have them already be that, and keep the why in the backstory. But not here. Here, I needed to show the shaping so that we could understand and love these injured, strong characters.

I'm so glad I started those four years earlier. Because then, when I knew the characters better, I could write the here-and-now so much more effectively. I realized that Samuel, who at first greeted a stunning revelation with calm and cool, would not be so unaffected. I realized that Zipporah, who greets adversity with a smile, was burying a world of hurt.

In life, we don't often deliberately choose the hard way. Not if we see that it's the hard way, LOL. We don't want the underscore of pain if we can help it. Certainly I would spare my children those hard-won lessons if I could. It's different with characters, but real people...we don't want to learn that way.

But like with characters, how often do we miss the real blessings God wants to show us by choosing the path we think is easiest? How often do we miss His rich depths because it's easier to skim the surface?

Maybe I'm still not going to seek out the hard way in life. But it'll find me, that I know. And I pray that the lessons I've learned in fiction I can carry through to reality. Because it's only through the hard stuff that the beauty really shows itself. It's only through the pain that we find the strength to really find joy.

It's only along the hard path that we find where we were always meant to be.

1 comment:

  1. Well, as a writer who reads your blog-- thank you for this! As a life-reminder and a writing-reminder.