Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When Your Book Acquires Personality

Our daughter is a lovely, intelligent, spiritual, healthy, well-rounded young woman. It’s hard to believe that she had some major health problems when she was a child. When she was eight years old, she developed a rare malignant tumor, an eosinophilic granuloma, that made a half-dollar-sized hole in her skull.


Three years later I began writing a book under contract to Zondervan about how to pray in a crisis, based on what I learned through that experience. Just as I was in the midst of writing the book, my daughter fell from a rope that broke, into a brick wall, and had a closed-head concussion on the other side of her skull. Then three weeks later my mother had a debilitating illness.

(My son asked me, “Mom, why do you think we’re having so many crisis things happen when you’re writing a book on crisis?” Me: “Maybe it’s on-the-job training.” Him: “Why don’t you start a book about getting rich?")

Sometimes a book develops differently because of outside circumstances, as this one undoubtedly did. But when Bonnie wrote her post that personified her protagonist-as-protagonist (can we call this a new literary device, protag as protag?), it reminded me of what I wrote in the last chapter of my own book, Crisis: Crucible of Praise:

From the beginning, writing this book has been like raising a child, a headstrong child at that. I originally planned for it to be well-behaved, an example for others.

But as it matured, it proved to have a mind of its own. It has run off into places I never intended it to go. It has opened dark cupboards I had forgotten, and dragged out their contents. Instead of it being the reflection of the good qualities I wanted to pass on, it has, like all children, shown its parent to be weak, vulnerable, and prone to mistakes.

Have you felt that a book you’re writing or have written developed personality? Can you share an example?


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I love that book excerpt, Latayne. So refreshing.

If my books were to develop personality, they'd be the barefoot brooding girl hunched in the corner, muttering and peering at everyone through her hair.

I tend to go for dark and dramatic. (*sigh*)

sally said...

Your son is a smart kid. I mean...that really might work.

One time my son said, "Our lives are like a series of unfortunate events, Mom." We were being trained to trust and praise, even though there was no book in the offing.

I love that excerpt from you book.

Jennifer said...

I love this!

"(My son asked me, “Mom, why do you think we’re having so many crisis things happen when you’re writing a book on crisis?” Me: “Maybe it’s on the job training.” Him: “Why don’t you start a book about getting rich?)"

Gave me an LOL moment this morning! And great excerpt! thank you for that!

Nicole said...

My novels all tend to do that so I'm used to it now. However, with the first novel revolving around horse racing (our career for over 30 years) it jetted off by itself almost instantly featuring the racing secretary (which is a position, usually held by a man, not a lady with a bun) as a main character--one I never would've featured.

I wouldn't have picked out the ending for my second novel either, but there was absolutely no holding it back. A lot like when your generally well-behaved child hides in/under the clothing racks in a department store. ;)

Great excerpt, Latayne.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you, everyone!

I see now, however, that i should have taken my son's advice. I mean, one book, what could it have hurt?

Sally Napthali said...

I so agree.

Just before I started a chapter called frustration, I went through a month of the most intense frustration I have ever felt. It made the chapter 'sing', it gave it depth.

I've walked through tough and challenging things whilst writing this book, and yes its been very painful, yet it's been the essense that makes my book so strong.

People need to see 'realness' on the page, not an idea, not something learnt from study. Writer's are more than just artist with words, but a life engaged and constantly being transformed.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Thought about this all day.

I'll get to the editing stage and begin to scratch my head when the pieces start clicking together. "Ah," I'll say, as though surprised. "So that's what that novel is really about." And I'll be smacked upside the head and caught in reflection mode for days.

Loved the dragging things from the cupboards line!
~ Wendy

Sharon said...

Agree. Loved the dragging things from the cupboard line. You'd rather describe what's in there when the cupboard opens than drag it out! Oh my gosh! However, as someone else said, our reader friends learn with us not from us.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Another timely post by my Novel Matters friends.

I am working on the "poopy" first draft of my second novel. And I'm close to a very emotional, tragic, world altering event (seriously, I'm not being dramatic). I've been in agony over what is about to happen to my characters. I've been watching them, worrying about how they'll react to what is a day away.

And my husband's grandmother (in real life) is dying. I mean, Hospice is in, asking to die, on morphine...dying. I've been in even more agony over her and what is about to happen. I've been watching her breaths, worrying about how we'll all react to what might be a day away.

And I can't bring myself to write.
Because it's all a little too read right now. :(

Sorry for the downer. It's been a heck of a week!

Megan Sayer said...

Susie that's so hard. Praying for you

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you, Megan. You are beyond sweet!

Latayne C Scott said...

I spent yesterday letting your comments sink in. I am so grateful, first of all, for you gracious ones who acknowledged a sense of identification with what I wrote, or got a chuckle from it.

I can identify with Karen's muttering girl who is trying to figure things out from her own point of view (since I'm being pulled to write in the first person, that's limiting and freeing at the same time.) And like Nicole, my recent books have jetted off and left me in the dust sometimes, trying to catch up. And like Sally, I've been left in awe when I do catch up and find my own creation singing to me, feeling Wendy's "smacked upside the head" sensation that leaves me feeling stupid and exultant, all at the same time.

And Susie, I ache for you. The Crisis book was unusual because Zondervan encouraged me to insert poetry to describe certain situations which went beyond prose. I think you'll identify with what I described what it felt like to be the intact link between hurting people:

The Handle

So I span this pain
Mother to my daughter
Daughter to my mother

As they have suffered
I have become the connecting link
Where the fires do not
Actually burn, but where
The singeing takes place.
The charring of the
Handle that joins two

from Crisis: Crucible of Praise

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Latayne, thank you. The poem resonated within my soul.