Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Finding My Book's Theme: Forgiveness

When I was reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” last month, I came across a passage on “thematic thinking” and it prompted me to contemplate my own work, to discover what exactly the theme of “The Mistaken” really is.  When I started writing it, I asked myself one fundamental question, “Could a genuinely good man be driven to do something truly evil and somehow find his way back to the man he once was?”  I certainly hope my story is believable.  I charted the man’s path and man him struggle with some pretty significant problems, but in the end, it all came down to one thing:  forgiveness.
Since I was first thrown on my journey, and by that I mean since I started this whole “I think I’ll write a book” thing, I’ve wondered why I ever thought to do it in the first place.  I’ve stated in earlier blog posts that this whole experience was extraordinarily surreal, that I’ve felt possessed by some force outside myself to write this story.  It was as if someone stood over my shoulder and whispered in my ear everyday exactly what I should be writing.  Because I certainly could never have come up with this stuff on my own, right?  Where did it come from?  I simply woke up one morning and the story was just there.  But why?  Why all of the sudden was it “just there”?
I’ve thought about that nearly every day since I first started writing because it feels like this is something I am supposed to do.  Am I supposed to do it to share a message?  Was I sent on this path to accomplish something personal?  Or perhaps I was meant to meet someone in particular?  Because I have met a few remarkable folks along the way, most notably my friend, Lisa.  She is what has stuck with me most on my journey.
I met Lisa Regan while searching for critique partners in Nathan Bransford’s blog forum.  Along with a few others, she responded to my post and a relationship was born.  She took me down paths I never would have otherwise even seen, prompting me to truly express myself, to become a better writer.  But more than anything else, she became my greatest confidant.  I consider her a great blessing, a truly wonderful friend.  Was I supposed to meet her?  Is that why I was hurled on this journey?  That would be fine with me, even if nothing else ever came of my writing this book, but I still can’t help but think there is something more to it.  I’d like to think that I was simply meant to write this novel.  Period.  But I wonder.  Is it the message itself that was supposed to reveal itself to me?
Twenty-six plus years ago, I had a child, a beautiful baby girl.  I wanted nothing more than to keep her, but circumstances, such as they were, worked against me and my parents, my father mostly, pushed me into adoption.  Because I was the ever-obedient daughter—or trying to be anyway—I went along with the idea, though it had to be on my own terms.  After an exhaustive search, I chose who her parents would be.  And after all these years, she seems to have blossomed into a wonderful young woman, currently serving in the Peace Corps in Thailand.  I try to believe I made the right choice, at least for her.  But down deep inside—subconsciously, at least—I hold a tremendous amount of anger and resentment toward my father.  I know this because in twenty-six years, I have never had one nice dream about him.  Every one is filled with anger and resentment even though I love my father dearly.  It’s never affected my relationship with him, but it’s there nonetheless. 
So, after reading Stephen King’s book, I began to ponder on the theme on my own book.  Forgiveness.  My whole story hinges on that element.  Skylar Karras, the protagonist, simply cannot move forward and get on with his life unless he learns to forgive, both others who have affected his life, and more importantly, himself.  I never meant to write a novel with a theme and I never even saw the theme revealing itself to me, even as I was actually writing it.  Lisa Regan somehow pulled that out of me by asking me to explain a few points that bothered her.  And viola!   There it was, the whole message of my book. 
Now I am wondering if that is the message on my journey, as well.  Is this what I am supposed to take away from this extraordinary experience?  Am I supposed to forgive my father so I can move on with my own life as far as my own daughter is concerned, so that I can truly love my dad like a daughter is supposed to?  I am crying here as I write this because I just don’t know.  I don’t know if that is what I am supposed to take away from this.  And I don’t know if I can actually do that, forgive on a subconscious level.  I want to, desperately so.  Because like my dear Skylar, I need to move on. 
I still want to believe that I was meant to write this story so that it may be published.  It is the greatest dream I hold for myself.  I want to do this in the traditional way, even though the publishing industry is in such a tremednous transition that it seems downright impossible.  Even finding an agent sometimes seems futile, especially after reading all the horror stories out there of un-agented writers still querying after many, many years. 
I am trying to follow the path I believe God has sent me down.  I swear I can feel His hand at my back sometimes.  I am trying to keep the faith, to believe in myself.  And I am trying to find my way and forgive the one thing that still burns in my heart after twenty-six years, three months and twelve days.

1 comment:

Lisa R said...

So powerful! I literally have goosebumps reading this! Forgiveness is certainly a theme in your book and an important message to take from it. I also liked how Skylar can never really know just how badly he has compromised his virtue until he's been totally consumed by the dark side. He has to go there to get back to the light. I love that about your book. Sometimes we simply can't grow as people until we've been through the worst possible things. (And thanks for saying all that nice stuff about me. I feel the same. If neither of us ever gets published at least we have each other!)