Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Using Life Tragedies as a Conduit to Stronger Writing

My dad passed away April 6th. Surgery was successful. Recovery was not.

His death was totally unexpected—one of life’s curve balls that comes at you from out-of-nowhere and leaves you wondering what hit you.

The past 24 days seem like a surreal episode in my life. I constantly revisit those last heart-wrenching hours spent at his ICU bedside willing him to live by telling him childhood stories to keep him with us until other family members could get there in time to say goodbye.

There is consolation that he went peacefully and not in pain while holding my hand, but I have a new understanding of what bittersweet really means.

What does this have to do with my writing?

About a week ago, it came to me that I’ve written a scene much like the one I experienced with my dad. My heroine holds her father in her arms as he dies from injuries sustained in a freak accident. My heroine tries to keep her father with her through the stories she tells him, but she is ultimately unsuccessful to stave off the inevitable.

My story is a finished, but unpublished historical family saga that I put aside three or four years ago because it just didn’t quite feel complete even though I’d typed The End on the last page of 120,000 words.

Now I know why.

The characters have been waiting for me to deepen the death scene. It’s a critical scene that changes the heroine’s life. It is her darkest moment. The characters knew I could make that scene rip the readers’ hearts out once I personally experienced the angst, hopelessness, and heartbreak of losing my own father. I had to know those emotions—wallow in them, rail against them—before my characters could own them.

I’m going to revisit that story and rewrite that scene while my own hurt is heavy in my heart. My characters deserve it, and I need it to help come to terms with some of my anger and sadness.

I even know who to dedicate the book to now.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Until next time,


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1 comment:

kittyb78 said...

My condolences.
I haven't lost my Daddy yet and I dread that day, but I lost my granpa to throat cancer just before Thanksgiving in 2010. It still hurts, but I know he'd want me to be happy and remember our times together.
He loved to make people laugh.

Some of my best writing has come from when I'm grieving, for the simple fact that it is emotionally charged.