Author and Perfector

A friend of mine from college recently embarked on the writer’s journey and has been enjoying himself immensely. Last night, he shared a soul-changing realization that he had.

He’d come to the portion of the narrative wherein he explored the MC’s backstory, all the horrifying things the young woman went through to become the hardened badass that she is in the book.

My friend will soon hold his first child, a little girl who already has a name and a place in his heart.

“Welcome,” I told him, “to being an author. Nothing forces us to face reality so much as crafted fiction.”

Readers may call authors all manner of names relating to our ability to do terrible things to made-up people, but how many truly understand what we endure when we write those horrendous scenes?

Our characters are our children, our best friends, our nightmares, our hopes. We live both sides of every tragedy we pen. We are the oppressed and the oppressor. We experience that dichotomy in the deepest places of our souls.

When we write backstories of violence done and overcome, we see the faces of the children. We shed the tears of the women. We scream with the voices of the tortured men.  And yes, we laugh as the sadistic villain who orchestrated it all. 

It’s not easy being an author.

And yet, I find that I can enjoy those dark paragraphs. I look forward to writing those scenes. Not because I enjoy suffering; please don’t ever think that. What I enjoy is what comes next. I know, because I’m the author, that this is the lowest point for my character. After this, it all goes up. My character learns and grows through this horror in ways she would not have if I wrote a kinder experience. Armed with these invaluable lessons, my character can rise and win.

Every point of conflict is a chance for a character to rise or fall. Each event is a choice, and the consequences of that choice change the story completely. I must ask myself, what is ultimately the best thing for this story? For this character? If I give her easier tasks, less harmful opponents, am I really doing her a favor? 

As with the children we bear and raise, the children we write matter to us. We want what’s right for them, even when our preferred genre involves tragic endings. We weep over their downfalls, get frustrated over their bad choices, and rejoice when they finally “get it.”  For something that only exists in our minds until we shape words around it, fiction is shatteringly real.

My friend confronted the reality under his imagination when he saw his unborn daughter on the page in front of him. Any writer who sticks it out and treats this creative gig as a profession will come to such a moment. It breaks all of us. The great among us pick up the pieces and reshape them into a new story.

This, more than anything, helps me to see God. He authors each of our lives and endures everything alongside us. When I write, I see whole worlds come to life in my mind, yet I know that what I am able to make of it pales milkishly compared to what I envision. I can’t make it as good as I see it. I can’t hold all the threads in my hands, and I often make mistakes in how I craft the story. I know how big a job it is, and I know how intimidated I get by the thought of trying to pull it all together in a cohesive whole. How much more is the scale of the universe?

I’m glad I only have pretend people to look out for, because I am daily reminded of my limits. When I see what God does around me, in me, and for me, I’m glad that He’s in charge and not me.


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