I finished reading a book last night. It was a story that took a few chapters to draw me in, but by the end I knew the characters well and loved them for their flaws and eccentricities. I celebrated their victories and mourned their losses.
As the book came to an end, I remember thinking, “It’s perfect. There is no other way I would want to depart from these characters.” I even shed a few tears for the beauty of it all.
Upon seeing my reaction, my husband jokingly said, “Every book comes to the same ending when the author writes THE END,” and seriously added, “I don’t understand crying over a book.”
Well any reader, even my husband, knows that not every THE END is the same. Some leave you scratching your head. Others leave you wanting. Still others leave you mourning the hours of time you wasted on such an unsatisfying book. And as for tears. Well. My tears last night were not simply for one character or situation. I shed tears because there was something in that character and situation that spoke to my own existence. Something that resonated with me on a deep level. I cried for the feelings that I shared with that character, not just because of something sad or touching that happened to him.
All of this has brought me to think about my own writing. Recently, I completed a first draft of my novel. Printing out a copy to read was pure satisfaction. But then I began reading. I’ve been reading my draft while also reading the book I finished last night. I’ve come to a sad conclusion. I don’t love my book. I don’t feel for my own characters the way I felt for someone else’s. I don’t experience the same emotions when I read of my character’s plights and victories.
So while I am disheartened by this knowledge, I am also grateful to have noticed this now. I am driven to cut, rewrite and revise. I know the connection that I want to have, that I want my readers to have. I know that it’s not there. But I aspire now to create it. From the lump of clay that is my first draft, I will form something beautiful, something worthy of the words, “It’s perfect. There is no other way I would want to depart from these characters.”