It’s been almost a month since my last post and I only have a half decent excuse for half of that. To quickly sum up NaNoWriMo: it was a success, although it would be false modesty to say I was ever in doubt of that fact. NaNoWriMo for me is the challenge of meeting a tight deadline, pushing through the spectre of self-censoring during the writing process and establishing a solid discipline. I’ve succeeded the last three years and will continue to participate every year I am able. Really, the true challenge is maintaining a similar level of momentum after the month is over.
That is what has kept me in Scrivener and away from WordPress: I am moving into the crisis portion of my first novel and have been remiss about stopping that momentum and diverting my efforts to something else, even if it is a small 500 word blog post. For the record, I posted a final word count of a little over 56,000. It was a tad less than I had hoped, but Thanksgiving usually is a consistent ‘derail-er’. I’m proud of my accomplishment and the accomplishments of all of the other NaNoWriMo participants. Again, if you love novels or just books in general and you think it’s important for there to be some sort of organized push to tear us away from our TVs and video games and mobile games and actually read something comprised almost exclusively of words, then its important to support that. I choose NaNoWriMo, both by participating and by regularly donating. It you want to donate, go here.
So, on to the topic of this post. I’ve talked before about moments in writing that I’ve found particularly challenging and that’s what I’d like to do again today. As my first novel, a lot of the process is self-discovery and an ongoing evolution as a writer. It’s different than a short-story in that the journey is longer and therefore the discovery could be said to be more prolonged and varied. I’m creating my my own world, but it’s firmly grounded in what we would recognize as the real world, sepcifically turn-of-the-century 1800s Europe. So, sometimes that real world filters in and I find myself having to address these things as they intersect my story.
So, the chapter I’ve just finished dealt with the attempted rape and murder of my primary female protagonist. It would be a gross understatement to say that this was a difficult chapter to write. So many questions enter into the equation that it’s hard to address them all. First and foremost: is this necessary? what does this add to my story? This was the most important question because if it’s not necessary, if it does not add to the narrative or push forward the plot in a specific addressable way, the including it would be crass.
Next, how can I possibly address this scene? How can i understand or place myself in the perspective of a woman who is about to experience this? If if it ‘failed’, rape is hardly encompassed by the sexual act itself. It’s the entire spectrum: physical, emotional and psychological. This character faced arguably one of the most evil depravities in the soul of man and will forever be affected by what occurs. I can try an place myself in her mind, imagine what she’d be feeling, but does it have veracity? Am I doing the millions of women who have the endure this in real life justice? Or am I marginalizing their experience? This I can answer truthfully: yes. No matter how well i address it, it is nothing compared to the real horror. All I can do is true to be as honest and considerate as possible.
Speaking of perspectives, how can I possibly write the other side of the scene, the actions of the attempted rapists themselves. We never see their perspectives beyond the words and actions they show us, but I’m still creating them and guiding those words and actions. How do you do that and escape? When you really get down to the core of the issues, I’m as culpable as the characters themselves. I stand by my decision and my chapter, but I will forever look at this chapter with foreboding and introspection.
Finally, the purpose of this chapter was to introduce us to my female protagonist as a perspective character. So far, she’s been a anti-hero and occasional adversary, but in this chapter she is joining the rest of my cast of characters and we are finally hearing from her, learning about her, seeing her for the character she will become. I wanted her to be strong, which of course made this chapter slightly easier. She wins the fight and defeats her attackers. Like I said, it doesn’t make the chapter simple or happy, but it is the one way I could possibly write it. Perhaps that is cowardly of me, but I could not possibly see any reason for it to be anything else.
In the end, I am pleased by the chapter. It introduces all of the elements I wanted to introduce into the story and is an integral part of the latter half of my second act. Everything is going to hell and this is yet one more step before the world drops out from beneath my heroes. Darkness is rising and in the last three chapters (of which this is the 1st), everyone learns just how dark it truly is. I’m excited by this stage of the book as it is truly the top of my writing mountain for this book, the pinnacle of buildup, after which the story careens forward toward the confrontation and resolution of this part of my saga. That being said, this chapter wasn’t easy and it will always affect me. Perhaps that makes it worthwhile in its own way.