Death Enters the Story
I just finished mapping out the last fifty pages of the new Katrina novel, Jazzy. I don’t begin writing with an outline; I begin with a character and a situation. As I write, I jot down a bare-bones outline of what I think is coming next. Often this turns out to be untrue. Sometimes I go back and outline what I’ve written, to see what I’ve written. Here, at the end, the outline takes on a more detailed imagining. In these last fifty pages of Jazzy, elements of what I initially thought would happen remain, but they’re all slightly different. The one hard fact of the ending remains the same: if this is to be a Katrina novel, death must enter the story.
I HATE writing death. I like for death to be the emotional triggering event–in the past. Read my novels and short stories and you will see death over and over again. I attribute this to my daddy dying when I was three years old, suddenly, tragically, graphically. Haunted by that, I’ve explored the death of mothers, several cousins, a sister, strangers, an uncle, a grandfather, boyfriend, wife, the near-death of a nephew, and the death of too many fathers to count.
Only once or twice have I written the death of a character who lived and breathed when I began the story. In one novel, I was so averse to having a young cousin die, I had him run off and become a Jesus freak instead.
All of which means the character in Jazzy, of whom I am extremely fond, must not die in vain. The hard part, of course, will be when I return to the beginning of the story for the editing process. Now I will know the character is going to die. Everything I write about him will be tinged with poignancy. It will be hard going. Death always is.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .