Monday, August 06, 2012

Learning to Let Go

Hello Reader!  As I'm drafting query letters for agents and really analyzing the meat of my novel, I frequently come upon an unavoidable fact.  My novel has very little believable science fiction.  A lot of the technology I employ isn't nearly as well researched as something like the Hyperion series, my alien species fall into the two arms, two legs trope of most genre fiction, and while I love the superpowers my main characters have there's little concrete explanation for them.  I rock back and forth from fantasy and sci-fi, often in the same sentence, while expecting my readers to manage the tonal shifts.

Because of this glaring weakness too ingrained in the story to truly rectify, I focus on its strength: character relationships.  Now I'm not saying that the novel has good character relationships, I'm not that boastful.  You can be the judge of that.  I'm just saying that relative to other aspects of the novel (like the sci-fi tech and fantasy elements) it's a much stronger element.  These relationships, between teenagers just starting their adolescence, are of course fraught with angst and melodrama.  But they're also informed by my life.

When you're a teenager, every problem in the world seems like the apocalypse.  You feel alone in trying to stop this immense silent doom that no one else understands.  Sure some of you may not have felt that, and good for you.  La dee da.  But either way, the whole teenager thing provides good drama to write about.  There's nothing like the raw emotions of a fourteen year old to propel a plot.  The problem with me using this aspect of my life, my adolescence, to inform the adolescent relationships in my novel, is that I don't know much about my adolescence.

Yes, this is my rage face.  Beware.

It's not fair to say that I had it stolen from me.  It was very much a two-way street.  But for five years I was best friends with someone who, at the end of the friendship, revealed that a lot of important things that had happened between us was a lie.  A lot of those important things involved my relationships with other people. A lot of those important things involved how I thought I was perceived by others.  A lot of those important things involved how I perceived myself.

I can't begin to tell you how fucked up I was because of it, because I don't know the extent of the damage.  I have no idea how far those lies actually spread.  But lord did it make me angry.  A sort of wrath overcame me, a debilitating rage that I couldn't control.  I know when it comes on too, but it's like a drug.  I always felt better after I roared at someone.  More than once I've alienated and freaked people out by screaming at them like this.  People who care about me and like me.


But who really does like and care about you?  That's the takeaway I got from those five years.  It's all ephemeral, these feelings and warm-hearted grins people give you.  It can go away in an instant, because if you're not careful you'll let yourself get caught in a trap of trust and vulnerability built on lies and social niceties.  Betrayal is around every corner, a wraith ready to prey upon all the good feelings you desperately want to hold onto.

Of course, that's all of my vengeful bitterness talking.  None of that is a healthy way to live.  But the kind of clarity I have about the issue now only happened when that best friend came back into my life.   And told me that all of the lies revealed to me, all of the exposed deceit, all of the torturous arguments that turned me into a blithering lunatic, were fake.  That it was all done to let go of me, because this best friend didn't see any other way to cut off the unhealthy relationship.  DRAMA.

Beware crossroads demons...they like to kiss.

When something this jarring happens, you can go one of two ways.  Either you believe the person, thereby changing everything you've ingrained in yourself for years, or you can disbelieve a person and restart the same arguments you thought you had put to rest years ago when you refused to speak with the person ever again.  Believe, and change yourself, or disbelieve and get wrapped up in all that shit all over again.

I did neither.  I chose not to care.  I chose to accept the notion that I may never know the truth about that part of my life, and just be okay with it.  There's a point where you just get exhausted by hate.  And it's at that point, when there's nowhere left to go, that you just build your own damn street to drive on.  It's that kind of lucidity I want to bring to Briok and his relationships.  Ultimately, Briok's tale is a bildungsroman - a coming of age tale.  But a lot of syfy coming of age tales involve blatantly supernatural confrontations with evil.  It's really cool to read, and I'm guilty of lapping them up just as much as the next person.  But they aren't real, or relatable.  They're just cool.

This pedo clown monster came from Stephen King's mind.  Ya.  Swallow THAT.

What if there was a sci-fi/fantasy hero who dealt with evil not just on a supernatural scale, but on a very personal one too?  What if the true villains of this character's story weren't the evil aliens who want to kill him, but the untrustworthy friends who push him further and further towards bitterness and cynicism.  You and I, we aren't defined by our confrontations with Gollum, or the Dark Lord, or the happy-go-lucky best pals we can sometimes cross paths with.  We're defined by how we deal with bad things happening to us, and whether or not we came out of those situations whole.  No matter the genre, our shitty relationships with people (and yes, our great ones too) should be reflected in literature.  And not in the creepy, pseudo-pedophile way Stephen King does it.  Here's the weekly excerpt:
            “What are you talking about?”
            “What do you mean what am I talking about?  It’s a great idea!”
            Briok sat in his seat, gawking at Proteus.  For his part, Proteus had a crooked grin plastered to his face in an attempt to convince Briok.  “Water?  I’ve been playing football and violin all my life.  What makes you think I’m going to suddenly change everything and do Water?”
            “You’re not going to be changing everything.  You’ve got the body for it!  Besides, what else are you going to do with your free time?  Young prince lessons?”  Proteus turned to Carma, who was busy flirting with Evron Tennyson from afar.
            Proteus rolled his eyes in disgust, “Will you stop eye-raping him and help me out here.”
            She turned around scowling, “What?  He doesn’t want to play, leave him alone.  Besides, I don’t see why he shouldn’t keep doing violin.  You’re really good at it Briok.”
Until next time then.

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