One of the best and worst things about having a full life is the quality of interruption. The hours spent mired in character, plot, research, tension and the world of fiction can be just as blissful as they are frustrating. For anything of note to happen on the page, sustained concentration is not only prescriptive, it’s imperative. But it’s hard. And one of the difficult elements has to do with emotional investment.
I was trying to explain this in the post-Thanksgiving drive home yesterday—the tendency to become invested in character to the degree that a writer, rather than being elated at the end of a manuscript, might actually become depressed. The same way a person might lament the end of a romance or other significant relationship, ending a journey with a character can be a let down.
On the drive home, my boyfriend referenced the main character in Stephen King’s “Misery” as an example of a writer who celebrates the completion of a manuscript with ritual, champagne and satisfaction.
I think the intention of the reference was to offer some sort of a carrot because I have been remiss in my daily word count. You know, the, “When you finish you can celebrate…won’t that be great,” sort of cheering squad encouragement. Bless his sweet little heart.
And because I’m such a bad girlfriend I didn’t take the bait (offered up as it was with such loving encouragement). No, I played the dark artist card. The, “What makes you think it’s a happy moment, finishing a book?” sour grapes retort.
Was I being defensive or honest? Hm.
No doubt, sinking into the heartbreak of invented characters costs. You examine the particular nature of pain, you’re looking into your own dark place. That’s what makes, IMHO, a satisfying read. An honest, accessible, real portrayal of the human condition.
“Do you think every character has to have a broken heart?” asked my boyfriend. “Do you think Dirk Gently had a broken heart?”
Nothing gets me snottier than evoking the success of genre fiction.
But back to the question at hand. The defensive versus honest one, I mean. Give me a corner of a room, my computer and the absence of distraction and then offer the counter to that: friends, family, alcohol, my boyfriend and a hot tub, a Scrabble board and a ball game booming in the background, the typical expansive Thanksgiving weekend. Which one looks more attractive?
Fuck the broken heart. Right?