Writing What Hurts – A Matter of Perspective

129168711694499852There are two things you’ll hear a lot when people start giving out advice on writing.

  • Write what you know.
  • POV Matters.

I’m not much for cut-and-dried rules; I write what I write, and I write ‘how’ I write, but sometimes I can go back after the fact and pick out some things that are important.  Since this week I’m talking about my novel, This is My Blood, I thought I’d start with that.

When I parted ways with organized religion, the insides of my psyche were not a pretty sight.  I had issues.  I had some anger, too.  Mostly, though, it was growing pains.  I was drawn into the “fold” the way many are – I was young, lonely – girls asked me to a Bible study (pretty girls) – it gave me a sense of belonging, and, for a while the notion that I knew something important.  I’m not planning on bashing religion in this post.  I’ll say that I write fiction, and it can be powerful.  Ancient people wrote fiction too, and just because it helped them get through the night, and the stories were passed down from generation to generation, I see no reason to consider them more than they are.  Fiction.  The world does not need Gods or higher powers to believe in – it needs men to step up and take responsibility for their own good, and bad works.

In any case, there I was.  I had recently decided NOT to become a campus minister, but had studied quite a lot toward that end.  I had a wealth of biblical knowledge, and some very strong ideas about what I did NOT like about Christianity.  It had nothing to do with Jesus, or with God – for that matter, though he seemed (and still seems) far too clinical, judgmental, and violent for my taste.  It had to do with rules, with the men who made and enforced those rules, and the hypocritical nature inherent in anything important that becomes ‘organized.’

I started with my plot – it was straightforward.  Someone near Jesus would be cursed with vampirism.  I did not want to change the main story.  I did not want (as many suggested I should) to turn it into some sort of cosmic romance novel.  I had something to say, and I needed the proper voice to say it.  So I started with what I knew.

Religion – particularly Christianity – is based on faith.  You don’t’ get to know things, you have to trust…God, The Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Church.  You just take what they say on “faith” and forge ahead.  That is the flaw.  It is not enough, and it never was enough, because men are creatures of intellect.  We can think for ourselves (and should do so) and in a faith-based system, that’s not only frowned upon, but you are told in many cases that the thoughts and facts you encounter are just tests from some dark, evil entity trying to lure you from the fold.  Clearly, then, none of the men surrounding Jesus was going to be able to tell the story as I wanted it told.  It had to be someone who knew the truth.  Someone who had walked where Jesus had walked, had absolutely no doubt there was a Heaven, and a Hell – someone without the false support of faith crumbling beneath their feet.

I chose an angel.  I chose to have Lucifer raise one of the fallen in the form of a woman, ostensibly to test Jesus’ will to resist temptations of the flesh, but in my mind, to provide the perspective – the point of view – that could make my book more than a vampire story.

I don’t want to get mired in talking about that book, because I want you to go and read it.  I’m greedy like that.  I love feedback.  The point is, as Mary often tells us in the novel, she has walked the roads of both Heaven, and Hell, and her memory will suffice.  She was disgusted by the greed and infighting among the apostles, astonished at the blindness of those witnessing miracles, and five minutes later arguing over points of “law” as if their opinions mattered a whit.  She knew what was at stake, and so, as she walked along through the gospel of Judas Iscariot, she was the perfect voice to comment on things that had been left unsaid, to voice the concerns and fears that the Bible ignores.

She was MY voice, my message to my past, and my hope for the future.

I call these posts “Writing What Hurts” for a reason.  When you are really writing, everything about the words matters to you.  Sometimes you are just storytelling.  Sometimes you are fulfilling commitments, or putting bread on the table.  Other times, like the time I spent writing This is My Blood¸ you are consumed by the work – obsessed with it – invested so deeply that every comment, every reaction, every turned page matters to you.  If Clive Barker is right, and we are all books of blood, then our best work is flesh torn from our hearts.

When you decide what your book is about, think about who is involved.  Think about all of the points of view from which the story could be told, the problems inherent in each, the gains and take-aways of each choice.  Think about how you want your readers to react, and to which characters – and events.  Choose your book’s voice wisely, and stay true to it.  You may find that, by the time the work is done, you’ve learned as much as you’ve taught.

-DNW

Now, as I’m certain I’ve caught your attention – Buy This is My Blood now at Amazon.com…

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