At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bleed It Out

It's okay. Don't think for a second because of the title of the post that we're discussing the Linkin Park song.

It refers to what happens when I write. Yes, art imitates life. Still, not a lot of my own life ends up exactly in my writing. Some events do get transposed onto the page into a different form (more about this in a day or two). However, what I think happens most often for me is that some very reactive things occur to me, whereupon I import them into my own stories. It's a very organic process, and a hidden one; I wasn't really aware of it until I was working on my third novel.

I'll put it this way: I have a number of friends and acquaintances. It's not just what happens in my life that is eligible for expression. My emotive responses to what my friends go through gets into print, as well. There are hardships in my novels such as workplace politics, family dysfunction, repressed trauma, anger toward religion, and--of course--murder. While I am careful not to impose my friends' experiences directly into print (that would be a violation of trust, in my honest opinion), I do import something.

For instance, I have two friends going through different life situations. One is recently divorced and caring for his two kids; he also was out of a job for what seemed like about a year. His friendship means a lot to me and so I was often checking in with him, seeing how the job search was going, how he was doing personally post-divorce, etc. It absolutely crushed me to see someone like him, who encouraged me through my own trials, go through the dregs of life like that. But within the past couple of weeks, he managed to snag a position that really fits his passion and his "internal abilities matrix." He's overjoyed, and so am I. Trust me, as faithful as he's been throughout this ordeal, he deserves this.

My other friend is in the midst of vocational struggles at this point. He recently lost his job and is now trying to figure out the next step. He wants and needs to provide for his family. He has several possibilities and while he knows time is of the essence, he worries about taking a first offer that might be less than ideal. He struggles with this. When I think of him, I struggle with him. I know what it's like to go through it and wish I could make things ideal for him.

So while I don't utilize the exact scenarios in my writing, I do consider how people respond to the difficulties in life. I think about my friends and what goes through their minds, hearts, and souls; I capture that in my mind's eye and then, in a manner of speaking, "bleed it out" on the page regarding parallel situations of loss or challenge.

Sometimes this happens through my own experiences. Having lost our youngest son, I remember his funeral and burial vividly. The opening of Litany of Secrets, my novel to be published this fall (by Dunrobin Publishing), is a graveside service through the eyes of a young child. A lot of my emotions from that gray November day come through on the page. It's completely natural to "bleed it out" that way.

I think--actually, I know-- this can give character and plot depth to the writer's craft. We borrow a lot more from life than we would admit. It was P.D. James herself who once said, "Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer--however happy, however tragic--is ever wasted."

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