Speaking of broken hearts

Perhaps you remember my literary roadblock, where I couldn’t move forward and subconsciously knew something was wrong with my string quartet novel. I’d stewed it for over a week at that point and no solution had presented itself, putting it beyond literary pause territory.

I’m now eight thousand words beyond the road block, so I thought I’d update on how I got past it. And the reason I’m thinking that is because I’m in the middle of writing the protagonist’s darkest hour, when all is about to seem lost, and I’m feeling awful because I’m intentionally breaking her heart.

Yes, I’ll put it together again. But I have to smash it with a sledgehammer first. It’s one of those things writers do.

I don’t like it, though. So instead I’m blogging about it.

Why the roadblock before? Because like any good chef, I recognized an ingredient was missing, and I needed to sample the stew in order to determine which.

(A joke told to me once by a short-order cook:
Q: What’s the difference between a cook and a chef?
A: A chef turns his head when he sneezes.)

It took a few more days of roadblock before I found the missing ingredient: passion. The thing that would keep my protagonist moving forward and the thing she’d sacrifice everything else to achieve. She’d moved from passive to active between drafts of the story. But she hadn’t moved beyond “active” to “would do physical harm to herself in order to have this one thing.”

Real people can be passive. A main character must be active. But add passion and you’ve got something you can give a character and then, because the author is always a jerk to her characters, you take it away from her…only to give it back in a form the character never expected.

I’m back on-target with the book now. It took two days of back-seeding passion where she was merely enthusiastic, and we’re good to go.

I’m back in that phase of writing where I keep trembling when I need to stop. Where I get nervous that my document and all the backups will simultaneously fail. Where I need to stop writing and go do a blog post because I’m getting wrapped up in my character’s world.

In other words, I gave my MC her passion, and she gave me back my own. See? They do teach me too.