Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behind Closed Doors: The Good from the Bad

Hello my lovelies. I will tell you, this was an EXTREMELY difficult article for me to write and post. So leaving me some kind words or just a smiley face will help me know you don't think the worst of me.

Remember that post about going behind the closed doors of writers? I promised to look behind closed doors and address things that would typically ruin a writer's platform. You know, air the dirty laundry. Until now I have not been really moved to write about it. But something happened to me yesterday that really knocked me off balance.

What could wound me so badly? Well... a letter from my maternal grandmother. If at any point this becomes uncomfortable for you to read, I encourage you to skip down to the "Here's what's important" section.

You see, I was abused as a child. I've suffered all the typical symptoms and signs that most who are abused do. I blamed myself, loathed myself, and all those nasty little things. For the past four years, I decided to face this issue head on. I decided it was time for me to learn how to deal with it. Considering where I was at when I started on this journey and where I am now is quite phenomenal. The fact that I'm sharing the tragedy that was my grandmother's letter is even more shocking.

Last night, I sat down to read a letter from my grandmother completely unprepared... a letter saying that the abuse was my fault. She said that I had provoked the abuse by seducing my abuser. I was probably 4-5 when this abuse happened the first time. I know, after much coaching and understanding that I've garnished from getting older, that I was not at fault. Children do not seduce. I logically know that. While that knowledge filled my head, in my heart, I felt all those rotten feelings come back.

My breath was caught in my chest and I struggled between anger and simply shattering while I fought for peace. Her words resonated with all the fears of those negative beliefs I'd held my entire life.

I believe when something horrible happens to someone, no matter how big or small, that a piece of darkness is in a way transplanted into them. I believe this because I believe that we were created to love and be happy. It's what we all seek. For me, I can't understand someone doing something so destructive to another person, so I rationalized that I brought it on myself.

While I understand this isn't true, that I didn't do anything to justify someone abusing me, I have had to find another way to understand that dark voice inside me that tells me it's my fault. It's a part of me, after all. And we all have it. I hate my abuser. My family says I should forgive, after all the abuser was relatively "young" as well. I've tried. I've tried for years, and I cannot do it. And when I have a flashback or (in this case) receive an antagonistic letter from my grandmother, I hear that dark voice wishing my abuser was no longer on planet earth, or a voice telling me that I deserved it, all the more spurring my hate for him. I hate him for having infected me with this darkness.

Here's what's important:
We all have a darkness inside us. It is not who we are. When we go through hard times or when darkness finds it's way into our lives it's like we get infected by it. Sometimes it's something small, like someone being rude. Sometimes it's bigger things like being bullied or excluded. No matter what it is, we've been faced with it, and it is our jobs to overcome it and choose not to pass it along.

As a writer, I've learned a few things from this experience. For one, I realized that the darkest and most painful villains are the ones that don't see evil as evil. They revel in what they see as justified or righteous morals. Take Hitler or Dolores Umbridge, for example.

I also have found myself asking myself questions that I can then apply to my writing to deepen the characters' development:
  1. What deep seeded evil resides in my own characters?
    • Where did this evil come from?
    • What have they done to try to eradicate it?
    • Where they able to eradicate it?
    • How does it physically manifest in their behavior?
    • What horrible thing happened to them and how would/does it twist their personality or view point on the world?
  2. Are my villains really as horrible as they could be?
    • Are they just power hungry?
    • What is a fitting "righteous blindness" that they could have?
    • How does this evil physically manifest itself in these characters?
  3. How do my protagonists handle the evil that is thrust upon them?
    • Is it an example that I stand behind?
    • Is it an accurate account of how a person really reacts? (I know I haven't written a scene that mirrors my meltdown last night.)
  4. And this is a big question, how do my characters handle the evil in others?
    • I come across as a very hard person. For those I've edited for, they know my standards. I'm a tough cookie to please because I'm always searching for the best. But, I also have a lot of compassion, and that is trait I don't think I really project quite so well. I know others who would read the same letter I read last night and go into a fit of rage. This is a normal reaction. It took me a while to fully understand how everyone has their own pain. There is no pain meter when it comes to emotion. (←I like that line, I might insert it in my MS.) 
    • Is it believable?
      • Have I developed the character so that their reaction to this evil person is believable and not some regular knee jerk reaction?
I have had a lot of time to come to terms with the way I am treated within my family. I am no martyr, and I'm not a victim. Maybe I was once. I like to think it was just something that happened in my own story arc. When anyone comes into your life to attack you, it's just a side effect of their own story arc. You have to figure out how you (or your characters) really feel about what happened. I don't believe what my grandmother wrote in that letter is true. I can, however, take the experience of last night and transpose it into my characters and how they feel and experience their hardships. I just have to stay true to what I have discovered about myself. And in doing that, I can more precisely make sure my characters are staying true to what they have discovered about themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. So I'm late to this, but I can't believe she did that to you, what an awful thing to suggest! Absolutely terrible on all counts. You poor thing. BUT it's amazing that you're able to use it in a positive way - that really takes strength. And it's good that you know it's not, and could never be, your fault.

    Anyway, here's a belated smiley face... ;) PS really love your writing style, can't wait to read those chapters.