Some of you know that a couple months back I was in a very serious car accident. My car was destroyed. I, thankfully, am not dead. Since then I've been through a series of doctor's appointments, physical therapy appointments, and an MRI where I learned the answer to the question "How claustrophobic am I?" is "I AM SUPER CLAUSTROPHOBIC."
In the nearly 10 weeks since the accident I've been battling myself because by everyone's time table I should be back to my old self. I should be driving like I always have, I should be performing at work like I always have, and I shouldn't have any pain. After all, it's been ten weeks. Get over it!
But there has been pain, and lots of it. I've tried to push it down, to hide it, to move it away from myself. I've tried telling myself it's not real, it's all in my head, I'm being a baby.
But the pain is very real, and it's with me every day. And today, I got some preliminary MRI results that would be scary for most people, but for me it gives me a word for what I'm feeling, and that actually helps a little. Knowing that the injury is real, that it has a name, that I'm not walking around like a whiny child, but that what is happening to my body is legitimate is a big deal. I now am able to feel the pain as it is, and to deal with it in a healthy way.
Why am I telling you this?
Two things come to mind every time I have problems writing a scene, getting my characters to emote properly. The first is a T-shirt that pops up when I window shop over at Cafe Press. The shirt says, "No tears in the author, no tears on the page."
Simply put, if we as authors don't feel what our characters are supposed to feel, then how can our characters possibly convey that feeling to the reader?
Maybe that wasn't so simply put.
The other thing that comes to mind is an article I read eons ago about how central air conditioning was ruining the Great American Novel. That might sound weird, but the writer of the article talked about how Falkner, Cather, Hemingway all wrote about real human emotions on a real human level, and they were successful in conveying things like how everyone is just a tiny bit insane, in part because they were possibly driven mad by the heat and humidity in the American South, especially in the summers.
I've been thinking about these two things a lot because "Fresh Ice" is coming out in November, Lord Willing, and there's a ton of emotions, most of them dark, in all the characters. I've never been betrayed by my husband, but my main character has. I've never been blackmailed, but my hero has. Somehow I have to manage to bring those feelings to the surface, and how can I when I've spent the last ten weeks pushing away my own feelings?
We live in a medicated society. Are you sad? Take a pill. Are you achy? Take a pill. Are you on the verge of killing your first born because you have that super high powered PMS and if the kid doesn't stop whining about every little thing you're going to though a wad of peanut butter at him? Take a pill. Between that and central air conditioning, have we lost the ability to feel? Well, Poe medicated plenty, and his poems and stories are riddled with pain...so maybe it's just the central air thing.
I'm not suggesting we give up central air. Nope, I'm not ready to be that insane. I'm also not suggesting we give up medicating when we need to be medicated.
But if we feel pain, maybe, as authors, we need to face it, embrace it, deal with it, and put it on the page.
I know it's a new focus for me as I move in small steps toward some sort of recovery.
Now...go forth and write!