Jigsaw

This month has been something of a journey for me, a period of re-discovery of the inner storyteller in me. It sounds ludicrous that I’ve never exercised this part of myself  in any real way over the last two decades of my adult life, but it’s true nonetheless. As I’ve said, I played with my love of narrative a little in college but have pushed it deep down since then for a variety of reasons. Jennifer helped me to rekindle and nurture that desire and I’ve been running with it ever since.  So, this process for me is a little like being a child again, in that things that would sound basic or obvious can sometimes be frankly surprising and exhilarating.   I guess it’s a little like having a child: everyone walks, but watching something (or someone) you created learn to stand and walk on it/their own is a wonderful way to see the world through newly opened eyes.  I can’t really explain it better than that (which could be a bad sign for a prospective writer) but that’s the closest I can come to how this feels.

As I’d been working on my novel and giving my characters life, I recently came to determine there was a potential issue with one of my main characters. Part of his journey is the conflict between his unshakable faith in his country and its actions -despite the evil of some of those actions- and the ultimate realization that his faith is unfounded and undeserved. I have been building his character with such a steadfast resolve that he could rationalize any misdeeds on the part of his nation as ultimately justified.   As such, I’d unfortunately reached a point that any transition he might try to make to a different point of view would be difficult for the reader to believe. I had sufficient reasons, but given his stoic refusal to change his mind previously, it was unlikely he’d change his mind at the desired moment, even given the huge ‘trigger’ I was planning on using. I had all the pieces laid out, but none of them fit together like i thought they should.

Then on Sunday, I was driving to my mother-in-law’s home to pick up some Thanksgiving stuff my wife and I had left behind and had a gobsmacking ‘A-HA’ moment. It was so abrupt yet so wonderfully reasonable that I wondered how I could have missed it. By changing a single act for an important supporting character, I had not only provided the perfect reason for my hero to radically change, but also provided my secondary character with an incredibly more nuanced personality. It was amazing in its own way. If I can execute my idea correctly, it will definitely be a ‘flip-back-to-that-chapter” moment where all of this character’s past actions will be viewed under a different light.

I’ve previous mentioned at how wonderful it is to see a character evolve, seemingly on its own, and this was one of those moments, perhaps one of the best ones so far for me. I had already been adding a lot of flavor and depth to this character but this added a new layer to them, something that will really color everything they do. The most miraculous part for me was that the decisions I’d already made for them worked so very well with this new aspect to their character. It was like the final piece of a puzzle that brought all of these different decisions together -good on their own- but perfect when viewed as part of the new whole.

Like I said in the beginning, this is something that seems so mundane when you hear yourself talking about it, recounting the event, but in the moment, that epiphany, that moment of clarity is so special it’s almost breathtaking.  Maybe it’s silly to post about this on my blog, but it was such an authentic storytelling moment that I wanted to share my joy.

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