Friday, July 31, 2009

What the story requires

I remember reading an interview with J. K. Rowling a few years back (right before Order of the Phoenix came out) in which she mentioned that she cried after she wrote the scene in which a major character died. I wasn't that bothered by the fact that writing it was upsetting enough that she cried. Even then, there was a part of me that recognized that putting something difficult on the page ought to hurt a bit if the author was doing it right. My reaction was more along the lines of, well, if it was that bad, then just change the story so that he lives.

(Brief pause while every writer who is reading this engages in hysterical fits of laughter.)

The thing is, I have discovered, it's not quite that simple. Not that a writer cannot change a story. Of course we can - we're the ones writing, and we are writing, not channeling some divine muse or some other such rubbish. But making a change means acknowledging that we are telling a different story from the one we started out with.In story as in life, people die. Bad things happen. The good guys don't always win, and even when they do, they are changed and sometimes tarnished by the experience.

It's hard writing those scenes. I am currently hiding from revising a particularly nasty scene in the novel. But it has to be there. I owe it to the story.

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