Today I’m honored to have as a guest blogger PJ Reece, author and writing craft guru. I first discovered PJ through his comments here on The Artist’s Road, which stood out even among the thought-provoking and insightful ones this blog somehow attracts. He is the author of the recently published free e-book Story Structure to Die For, and is a traveler and filmmaker. I’m also partial to the masthead image of his “Meaning of Life” blog, as I have a fetish for antique maps. PJ is helping me out as I transition back from by VCFA MFA residency and into the real world.
Our protagonists—something about them (should) scare us.
While writing my last novel, I called a time-out because for all the sweat on my brow I could see no blood on the page.
- Where’s the honest emotion?
- What’s my character’s worst fear?
- What lurks in the dark heart of my story?
Or, looked at another way…
What scares ME about what I’m writing?
My protagonist’s wife is dying. He wants to make amends for a lifetime spent in selfish pursuit of Art. (Good lord—was I was writing about myself?)
I thought about it deeply for a split second—of course! My own sense of failure as a father and husband—it was gnawing at me. My failure to love entirely and selflessly—Yikes!
“No tears for the writer; no tears for the reader…” Robert Frost was right. By tapping into the honest emotion in my own life story, my character began to ring true.
I’m now sweating over my next novel. What frightens me, this time? In other words…
Why am I writing this story?
My protagonist, a spy, screwed up big time in Iran. Major collateral damage. Vic recedes into his shell, distrusts himself, plays it safe. Then, a seemingly harmless assignment in Mexico turns treacherous. He’s on the verge of making another colossal mistake. More lives are in danger. Western civilization hangs in the balance.
Vic, still recuperating from the Iran fiasco, must risk career, love and sanity to rise above his limitations …and quickly. Vic has to leave his old self behind.
This is the heart of the story.
But can I write it?
Listen to my own heart ka-thump-ka-thumping. This isn’t about past crimes, this is much worse. This concerns what might be.
What if I were to transcend my own idea of myself—who would I be? Wow. This is the fear of success. And about leaving my comfort zone. About letting go. What if I became superhuman? Would my friends and loved ones be able to join me in that freedom? That’s it!
This is the terror of finally being truly free.
I return to the keyboard feeling very much alive and confidant that…
This is why I’m writing.
THEORY: what scares us about our story is nothing less than…
Why we write.
Can you tap into the fear that lurks in the dark heart of your own work-in-progress?
(Isn’t writing fun!)
PJ Reece is an author living on the west coast of British Columbia. Once a well-traveled filmmaker, PJ traded camera for keyboard when his young son told him to “settle down”. In addition to four published books, Reece’s CV features one big screen credit plus hundreds of hours of broadcast documentaries. He is working on a novel that combines the genres of literary fiction and thriller. (He has no idea if the twain will ever meet.) His blog is dedicated to the “mystical heart of fiction.” Download his free ebook, Story Structure to Die For.