Real Grief in Fiction

I’m working on a novel right now. It’s my BIG project and I’m more than two-thirds of the way into the first draft. Grief drives the actions of one of the principal characters. Her boundaries, her judgment, her balance become unhinged after the violent death of her grandfather. As the character was raised by her grandparents, his death is the loss of a parent.

         Processing that kind of loss is one of those terrible and completely normal experiences — one that can’t be entirely avoided. Imbuing real emotion into fiction is the job of the fiction writer. As I draft this post, I’m waiting to hear from the doctors in the I.C.U. It’s insanely early in the morning and I know that whatever the news, it’s not going to be good.

A wave of tears rolled over me as I realized that my dad won’t read this novel. I’ve given my mom installments of the draft, but the plan was to give my dad the completed first draft. He would read it, as he’s read many of my stories, with a pencil in his hand scribbling: “Who said that?” and “Give a different name, too confusing.” Or “Yes! Now I get it.”

I’m going to miss that more than I can say.

Can I, will I, draw on my grief to deepen my portrayal of my characters? Eventually. But right now, I will simply live the experience.


(I got the call a few hours after I wrote the above post. I’m going to miss my father AKA expert proofreader and guardian of proper punctuation.)


  1. I’m so, so sorry to hear your news Candy. Losing a parent is one of the most difficult losses to cope with. I wish I could give you an actual hug.
    We do rely on our own experiences to write, sometimes having to draw on our darkest memories and I’m sure there will be a time you’ll be able to do this easily.For now, everything will be too raw if you try it but also it may help tears to flow which I’m told is good for you.
    xxx I send sincere Hugs and condolencies xxx

    • Candy Korman

      It seems to be one of those experiences that is both universal and completely individual. It will, eventually, filter into my work. I just wish my dad was around to read this particular piece of fiction.

      Thank you for you condolences.

    • Candy Korman

      Thank you. I’ve been having trouble writing — but I’m sure that will pass soon.

    • Candy Korman

      Thank you! I wasn’t sure about posting this at all, as it is not in keeping with my Monster Meditation concept. But I realized I wasn’t going to post at all if it wasn’t about this.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your recent loss. My wife just lost her father a couple weeks ago and is still reeling. Just know that with time healing will come.

    • Candy Korman

      Yes… time. Perhaps the only thing that grief and writing have in common is that they both take time.

    • Candy Korman

      Thank you. Judging from the responses, I’m glad I decided to post about this after all.

    • Candy Korman

      One comfort is that my dad had a truly great life and he died at 86. Not a bad run for a man who was supposed to die young (due to a medical condition).