I’m up to 20,000 words on ♥My Book♥ as of this moment, and I’m loving it still. I’m not sure what the exact next scene is, but we’re rolling right along.
I’m coming up against two issues I hadn’t anticipated. The first regards one of the main characters. He’s a general all-around nice guy, somewhat prone to being taken advantage of, friendly but a little too reserved sometimes, and witty but quiet about it. If you were on the forum when I asked for help naming him (because he’d named himself after my brother and I wanted it changed) then you might remember we eventually settled on the name Josh. But there’s one thing I didn’t tell you about Josh.
Now, I’m aware that having a stuttering character in a humorous story is a minefield, and my objective out of the gate is that never, under any circumstances, is Josh to be laughed at because of the stutter. Period. But it was important for his character, and the more I researched stuttering the more I understood the things I’d only half-grasped about him before.
As I wrote him, something dawned on me: just how difficult it must be to have reams of thoughts in your head, only be struggling to say them. The banter you want to join in, the joke that pops into your mind but won’t come out your mouth. It’s like speaking a foreign language in your native country. This is a character who can IM and text witty rejoinders within seconds, but has trouble ordering a hamburger.
I realized as I wrote just how frustrating it must be, and as that came into my head, it broke over me like the dawn exactly why Josh’s character was all those things I’d understood before I’d truly understood him.
So right now, I’m lurking at a stuttering-support forum to learn as much as I can and make his experience as genuine as possible.
The second thing I’m realizing is what Betsy Lerner meant in The Forest For the Trees when she talked about how writers become suspicious characters within their own circle.
She mentioned an author who wrote about a protagonist who carries on an affair with his daughter-in-law. And how, she asks, did family holidays go afterward, with him in the living room with his daughters-in-law? Did family scrutinize him, the way he interacted with them, wonder what he thought of them?
My protagonist is going to have a problematic relationship with her parents. It is not in any way based on my relationship with my parents. Quite the opposite. But I know that within an hour of reading it, my mother will ask me if I really feel that way, and I don’t. But I wonder whether I’d be so blase about it if my daughter wrote her protagonist’s mother as a screaming harpy, or if my husband wrote a novel about a very patient man dealing with a woman who lives largely in her own head.
I find myself hesitating before writing the story the way it demands to be written, even though I know it’s just a story. Because in the end, I’m not just an author. I’m also a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a Christian, and a friend, and I don’t want to jeopardize any of those relationships in pursuit of the other.