Tag Archives: tragedy

Blumechen Slips in the Window Again, Or, characters who keep coming back

 The character who keeps coming back; most writers have them. The book that can’t or won’t  be finished–those too are endemic. My particular dark horse always returns in the year’s first warm weather, this year occurring in April. She’s here now, sucking up my waking hours. Needless to say, I’m reediting and reimagining scenes and conversations I’ve visited many, many times before. I’ve journeyed to this imaginary world over a period of almost thirty years. Blumechen remains a fascinating young woman, but I’m tired, and age is distancing me from so much of her experience.

This reworking doesn’t take place every year, at least not since the first decade. The gaps between are now closer to biennial. “She” is the first book I ever completed, although a satisfactory ending, I think, still eludes me. Like Constanze of Mozart’s Wife, this heroine insists on speaking in the first person, which both narrows and deepens her POV. It’s like writing from inside the confines of her 18th Century dress.

I’ve heard authors talk about having a “channeling” experience with their characters. There are many tales of automatic writing and spirit dictation, which sound as if they should be taken with handfuls of salt. However, after the experience I’ve had working on this perhaps never-to-be-finished novel, I know it can happen. Ordinarily, for a historical writer, it takes a period of research followed by concentration to make your dolls get up and move independently. In this case, it seems I was the vessel chosen by an actual voice from the past. She’s told me at least a part of her story.

So began this year’s tulip-time April, and now we’re into green May, and Blumechen is here, imperiously calling for rewrites and far more stringent editing. She insists I do my best work, despite the fact that her story might be classified as  “romance.” I hasten to add that it’s “romance” in the truest sense, in the same way that Romeo & Juliet is “romance,” not the modern mass market meaning. In this case, “romance” means the old-fashioned bloody insanity of passion, which can so easily end in tragedy. It’s the true nature of the beast, and it makes completing Blumechen’s story so difficult. I don’t really want to experience the end.

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An Attitude of Gratitude by Sherrie Hansen

It always amazes me when a friend or family member shows an attitude of gratitude when they are going through the kind of hellish nightmare that would make most of us hide under the covers, griping, groaning and whimpering.  These people face cancer and other dire medical prognoses… lose everything they own in a fire the day before Christmas… suffer through stock market crashes that take their entire life savings… lose a child, a best friend, or a spouse. They suffer unimaginable loss, and yet, in the midst of their grief, they’re able to be thankful for what they do  have, be glad that things aren’t worse, and be grateful for the support of their friends and family, even strangers…

It’s inspirational, mysterious, almost unimaginable at times, to hear thoughts and words of gratitude spoken in the midst of tragedy.

Others of us, when facing circumstances not half as dire or heartbreaking, spew bitter recriminations at God, curse our fowl luck, and complain about our misfortune to everyone within earshot.

What makes the difference? What unfathomable source enables people to give thanks even when awful things are happening?

I’ve learned that at least some of the time, the answer lies in a person’s faith. Believing that all things work together for good, in God’s time, seems to allow people to believe that better things are ahead for those who wait, or at the very least, that God will give them the grace to endure whatever in happening in their lives . I’ve always found it irritating when people spew platitudes, but I can’t deny that I have seen this kind of true, life-altering faith in action on several recent occasions. Instead of asking, “why me?”, these people seem to have a wellspring of inner peace and true joy that supersedes whatever tragic circumstances befalls them. These people are constantly looking up, expecting to see a rainbow.

I’m not talking about Eeyore-ish people who moan, “Such is life”, and begrudgingly accept their fates, pessimists who figured their luck would run out from day one, folks who have always, subconsciously been waiting for the other shoe to fall.  I’m talking about people who have found a lasting joy that is irrespective of their circumstances. These people aren’t stupid, naive or oblivious, so I have to assume that whatever or whomever is empowering them to feel peace in the midst of sorrow is real, tangible, and life-changing.

Although I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, I am blessed to have family and friends who love me, and more importantly, a God and Savior who will always be at my side.  I hope on this special day of Thanksgiving, and in the days to come – whatever they hold – that I can be a person who feels an attitude of gratitude for all that I have, has a faith that sustains me through both good and bad times, and is able to draw on an inner peace that inspires others as I have been inspired.

Happy Thanksgiving!

God is in Every Tomorrow (Author unknown)

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today;
Certain of finding at sunrise
Guidance and strength for the day,
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

God is in every tomorrow,
Planning for you and for me,
Even in the dark I will follow,
Trust where my eyes cannot see,
Stilled by His promise of blessing,
Soothed by the touch of His hand,
Confident in His protection,
Knowing my life-path is planned.

 

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Character As Fate by Pat Bertram

Heraclitus believed that a person’s character is their fate. Character — the sum total of a person’s traits — influences the choices a person makes, and the consequences of those choices ultimately become that person’s destiny. Or not. Much of life is luck, happenstance, and totally out of our control, though we tend to believe we have much more control over our lives than we really do. But that’s not an issue here because this is a writing discussion, and in our story worlds everything is under our control, and what our characters do determine their own fate.

This is most obvious in a tragedy — a character comes to an unhappy end because of a flaw in his or her own character, though in today’s stories, because readers like a more optimistic ending, that fatal flaw is often balanced by a special strength. But character/fate works for other types of stories, such as a thriller where a character becomes obsessed with finding the truth, and that obsession leads to both the character’s fate and the end of the story.

For example, In Daughter Am I, a young woman is determined to find out the truth of who her grandparents were and why someone wanted them dead. That determination overrides her usual placidity and takes her on a journey that eventually leads her home again, changed forever. She really did find her destiny because of her character.

I wonder if the opposite is more true (if truth has degrees), that destiny is character. Does what happens to us, both the actions under our control and those beyond our control, determine who we are? Determine who our characters are? This was a theme I explored in More Deaths Than One. So much happened to my poor hero Bob that was not under his control, yet what was under his control — how he handled his fate — made him the man he became.

Any discussion about fate and writing would also have to include the question: does the writer’s fate affect the character’s fate? None of my books have totally happy endings. There is always a pinprick of unease in the background, but the book I am now contemplating — the story of a woman going through grief — is going to have even less of a happy ending. Perhaps because I know the ending of my own love story? Not my story, obviously, since I’m still here, but the story I shared with another. Except for my work in progress (the one that’s been stalled all these years) the stories I’m thinking about writing now all end up with the characters alone.

When I wrote the first draft of my novel More Deaths Than One (and the second draft and the third) I had the hero Bob meandering around his world trying to unravel his past all by himself, and it was boring. Did I say boring? It was moribund. The story went nowhere because there was no one for Bob to butt heads with.

In the fourth draft of More Deaths Than One, I gave Bob a love interest, a waitress he met at a coffee shop. (Hey, so it’s been done before. The poor guy spent eighteen years in Southeast Asia, and didn’t know anybody stateside. How else was he supposed to meet someone?) That’s when the story took off. He had someone to butt heads with, someone to ooh and aah over his achievements, someone to be horrified at what had been done to him.

From that, I learned the importance of writing scenes with more than one character. And yet here I am, once more falling into the black hole of writing a character alone.

Which leads me to my final question: could the fate of the character also influence the writer’s fate? If so, maybe I should decide where I want to go from here, and write my destiny.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I.All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Everything Happens For the Best — Oh, Yeah?

Twice today I was told, “Everything happens for the best.” Everything? Is it best when a child dies? When an earthquake hits? When one loses their home and ends ups on the street? In books, everything does happen for the best. That is the point of writing — to make sense of senseless happenings. There has to be a lesson to be gleaned from the story events — perhaps character growth, definitely a satisfying resolution. If the story events happened without reason, the way things happen in life, readers would throw the book across the room and never pick up another one.

Oddly enough, our brains do that same work for us. When a tragedy has passed and we have come to terms with it, when we have found a way to live despite the pain life dishes out, we look back and think, “Everything did happen for the best.” But was it really for the best or was it our brains doing what they could to make sense of it all? Would we have ended up in the same place even if the tragedy hadn’t occurred? It’s impossible to tell, but I do know not everything happens for the best. We make the best of what happens. It’s called life.

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Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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