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.)