Who Wants to be a Character in a Book?

Grief: The Great Yearning is a compilation of blog posts, letters, and essays I wrote while struggling to survive the first year of grief after the death of my life mate/soul mate. We’d been together almost thirty-four years. I thought I was prepared for his dying, but his death shattered me beyond anything I could ever have imagined. The only way I could survive the agony was to write about it. Although Grief: The Great Yearning is non-fiction (obviously), it has all the elements of great fiction — emotion that weeps off the page, a conflicted character who yearns desperately for something, a love that lives on even after death.

Such is the pendulum swing of life that now, one year and four months after the publication of Grief: The Great Yearning, I would no longer make a good character in a book. I have no real wants or desires; no wishes, dreams, or hopes; no great love (no hate, either). I have nothing to avenge, no strong beliefs, no regrets, no guilt, no fears, no anger.

From the beginning, I’ve been bewildered by my lack of change. Shouldn’t such a soul quake cause ripples of change forever after? I didn’t feel any different, but apparently changes were taking place. All the conflicts of my life seem to be in hiatus, as if the slate of me was wiped clean to make ready for the changes that will be coming to my life. Some of the changes will come because of decisions I make, others changes will simply happen as the rest of my life unfolds.

Character change in itself is not enough either to pilot a story or to plot a book. Change in a character is generally the result of other actions, and shows us how the events of the story affect the character. So, basically, a book needs to begin with a compelling character, and I am missing all the elements that makes a character compelling. On the other hand, since I am not a character in a book, I will enjoy this hiatus from conflict and strong emotion. I mean really, who wants to be a character in a book? Life is hard enough without having to deal with all the torments we put our characters through.

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2 Responses to “Who Wants to be a Character in a Book?”

  1. joylene Says:

    I don’t know for sure, but as I look back over the years, I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed. I feel more at peace now [most days] than I have ever. And that includes before we lost our first son. I think it’s partially because now I too am beginning to see how I am part of the continuing cycle which is a combination of life and death. I also believe not thinking too much has helped me a great deal. When I hear the beginnings of negative self-talk, I shake my head like a dog and think something pleasant.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think that’s what one learns from grief — the continuing cycle. When I finally began to get a sense of that, I finally began to get a grip on the pain. I’m glad you’re finding peace. It’s been a hard won victory.


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