Have you ever started a story only to find several hundred words in that it has nothing to do with what you thought you were going to write?
While surfing the internet, I came across an interview with Amy Tan, (I’ve attached the video to this post) where she discusses, among other things, the notion that through writing we discover things we otherwise could not express.
I’d agree with Ms. Tan that the craft of writing has a way of tricking you into thinking about things you hadn’t thought about before and that very often we are driven to write a story during periods of great change. In fact, it’s the change that forces questions to the top and that pushes the story to be told.
The catalysis, the change that inspired me to begin my novel was the death of a dear friend, who after years of battling leukemia, received a bone marrow transplant, only to have her body reject the donor marrow and eventually to lose her battle in September ‘03. I thought I wanted to write a story that would bring attention to the need for bone marrow donors and to reflect the courage I saw in my friend. Heidi was an only child with an uncommon pedigree (her parents are German and South African) and without a match in either extended family, she had to rely on a stranger donation. That’s what I thought I wanted to write.
You tricky trickster Ms. Writing!
As it turns out, what I really wanted to write was about a family with several siblings (not an only child) as they came to grips with the life-threatening illness of one of their own, and to watch how they pulled together (or not), pushing aside old hurts (or not) to support each other.
70,000 words in, I’ve discovered I’m writing a story about the relationship between parents and their children, and between siblings. I’m also exploring how easily we misunderstand the people closest to us, and how the people we’ve spent our entire lives with, the people who should know us better than anyone else, are often the people who don’t see us (the real us) at all.
Where did that come from?
As I’ve said in an earlier blog, my fictional family is not my real family, but as I write I do recognize themes present in the Sargent/Murchison/McRobb/Overend clans. Being the only family I know from the inside out, I guess it stands to reason issues (oh we have issues) that my family live with would show up on my laptop screen.
Even more surprising to me as I dig deeper into my characters, is how my attention has focused on the mother/son relationship. Although the mother/daughter relationship is present in my novel, the primary pairing driving my narrative is between Anne (the matriarch) and Burt (her eldest son).
Didn’t see that coming.
Ms. Tan suggests that we do all in fact have a story in us, a story that only we can tell, a story that reflects our unique way of looking at the world that is different from anyone else’s viewpoint.
So I’m not telling Heidi’s story? Interesting.
Now, I hope I’ve had all the surprises that trickster has up her sleeve so I can actually get this novel finished!