The Charred Tree

Facing the darkness…

One day I may set my hand to writing some non-fiction, but it’s not something that particularly interests me. I mean…what’s the draw of writing non-fiction? Reporting the facts? Telling the truth? It seems like it would be too confining to only report what actually happened…and who determines the facts (much less the truth) of whatever happened?  Strangely enough…I think there are far too many subjective variables in non-fiction writing for my liking. What are the facts?  What is the truth? Let’s not even start down the road of ‘What is Truth?’ because that’s a philosophical discussion that will only end with my having a headache.

I don’t think of myself as a ‘control freak’ but I guess the case for it could be made in my approach to my writing. I like that I determine what happens in the story I craft. I like that I create characters that have some depth and take on a life of their own. I like the control I have in choosing how and why my stories move forward. I like that I choose where they go…even when it’s to dark places. And sometimes those places can be very dark indeed.

Last week I published Bound By Silence: Rage. If you haven’t read it yet (or the installments leading up to it), I urge you to do so before you continue.  Go ahead. I’ll wait. Back? OK. Dark? Yes. The largest part of Rage is based on an actual murder; if you haven’t already guessed the historical context, be patient and there will be no doubt about it within the next few parts.

Part of my method of storytelling is to get inside my characters and use that point of view to tell, show, and describe the story. Research and personal experience (no, I’ve never killed anyone) combine with imagination to create the sounds, smells, and visuals that eventually become the story. While the events, sights, sounds, and emotions may be disturbing they are still part of the story and the story must be told. Otherwise why am I here? I’m not a murderer…or a victim. My role is to tell the story as well as I can.

But the research and storytelling can take a toll when the story goes to dark places. Once Rage was published, I needed a shower—not because I was dirty but because of the “psychological sludge” that went into preparing and writing the story. Several hours of reviewing autopsy reports and pictures will do that to you. Reading (and re-reading) police reports and descriptions of the seedy parts of a major Victorian city is not the kind of thing you do before going to sleep.

I’m not sure what the right way to recover from that kind of writing session. This story wrung me dry for several days. Hot shower? You bet, but no amount of hot water can wash away psychological funkiness. The only thing I found that worked was to take a few days off from writing.

Do you ever run into a similar situation with your storytelling?  How do you deal with it?

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