My Very Real Fictional Writing Guilt
I started a new novel. I should be bursting with energy, excitement, plots, characters, discovery. In truth, I am. My new novel, Venom, is about a marine biologist, Eve, "Shelly" Shelbourne who is collecting venomous cone snails (yes, this is a real thing) to help her father research a treatment for MS. When her twin brother commits suicide, Shelly must face the guilt of not helping him, and the blame she places on her mother for his death.
In writing about a character's guilt, I realized I'm feeling guilty for writing this new story. I spent three years working on Walking Without A Compass. Three years in the heads of some wonderful characters: Wynn, Noemi, Rory, Shannon, Alex and everyone who walked the Green Mountain hiking trails. Three years of learning about juvenile arthritis, rare earth elements, international politics. Three years of feeling deeply about how Cam betrays Wynn and breaks her heart and spirit. Three years of putting Wynn back together, tearing her down, - rinse, repeat, revise.
I feel as if I've left these friends for a cooler group of kids. Oh God! I've gone back to middle school. Because in a way I have left them for a cooler group. I've taken all the lessons from Compass, and I'm pouring them into the pages of Venom.
Currently, I'm writing in first person. Can I sustain that for an entire novel? Can I tell a rich story through the eyes of one character? Can I land at my goal of 85K words? Can I contain the characters to the list I've developed? Can I write this in the way I envision?
Yes, more middle school mania when the world revolves around the self.
Stories give writers a way to experience and experiment with emotions and scenarios that, we hope, they will never experience. Stories take us down paths that lead to truths. As I'm exploring guilt, I have to mine experiences that I'd rather not revisit. Looking in dark corners is powerful.
Forgive me Wynn and all the characters in Compass. I still love you. I thank you. And now, it's time to move on.