Friday, July 1, 2011

Elizabeth Simpson and the impact of characters on those who create them

George Straatman returns to Her Ladyship's Quest after doing some introspection about writing his horror trilogy The Converging. His attachment to his character Elizabeth Simpson and the journey he took as a creative writer while creating her are the subjects of his guest post today.

There are many aspects of creative writing that are truly mystifying even to those who have devoted their lives to the art. Writing the Converging Trilogy was a twenty year undertaking and as I look back over those two decades and the process of evolution I’ve undergone, both as a writer and an individual in the world beyond…I realize that this series of novels and the characters I created to populate the Converging’s landscape, have left a lasting impression upon me in ways I could never have anticipated. I’ve often been asked about my creative process or more specifically, “Where I learned to write like that?” I suspect that those who pose the question find my response rather odd because my writing style is highly intuitive and is simply the way I naturally write…In that time, I’ve received some fairly effusive praise for the series and I’m still rather uncomfortable with the compliments because I’ve always felt that the stories wrote themselves and I was simply medium through which they were recorded.

With this notion in mind and as the Converging’s final word was committed to paper, my thoughts turned to the character of Elizabeth Simpson…and through her, I finally came to some epiphany of what it really means to be an author...to weave tapestries with words and emotions…to create characters whose lives and struggles can reach out beyond the printed page and leave an indelible mark on those who have shared their journeys.

I spend a portion of each day trying to learn more about the specifics of marketing in the new age of social media. In this process, I have heard the sage advice to ‘write to an audience’ and to ‘tailor your writing to their specific needs.’ While I have no doubt this works for those who have advocated the concept, I could no more write this way than I could draw down the moon. It’s simply not how my creative engine operates.

When I first took up the pen and began writing the first volume of the Converging the character of Cynara Saravic…the novel’s truly vile antagonist…was set firmly in my creative eye. Elizabeth Simpson, who would fall victim to Cynara’s demonic allure through the course of the novel, was to be a main character to be sure, but she was a nebulous creature whose character would be defined by the flow of the story. I mentioned that my writing is mostly intuitive and this was never more than case than it was with Elizabeth. As the story began to gain tangible shape, she spoke to me…quietly and with whispered grace and dignity and through the course of the 1,800 pages plus journey, Elizabeth’s tribulation-filled journey became the primary focus of the tale. Elizabeth came to define herself and endured the depths of despair and the heartache of ineffable loss that I contrived to heap upon her throughout the story with a stoic dignity. She suffered all of these things and through her grace, taught me the nature of perseverance, dignity and compassion even in the shadow of her own grief. Though provided with every opportunity to do so, Elizabeth fiercely refused to surrender her grip on the fundamental virtue of her nature and found the wherewithal to stay true to whom and what she was. When I first decided to write this horror trilogy, it was my aspiration to craft a horror story that would pay homage to all that I loved about the genre, but to also weave a tale that could transcend its limits and resonate with everyone who might embark upon reading it. If I have achieved this at all, it is to Elizabeth Simpson that all the credit must go.

I recall the night I finished the epilogue of Closures in Blood (the final novel of the Trilogy) in the summer of 1995. As I was inclined to do, I reread these final page and came to the stunning realization (one that I was unaware of during the actual writing) that I had just crafted one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching pieces of story-telling I had ever written…I had taken everything from Elizabeth that an omnipotent creator could take and in the end, had given back only the slim prospect of hope that was nebulous at best. Elizabeth endured even this with her customary grace. I recall how, through those twenty years, she taught me who she was and how best to recount her tale…and I know that I see her as a daughter…a friend and an example that I can look to when faced with my own trials to overcome.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received as a writer came when a fan of my series approached me (an avid reader who had never read a horror offering prior to mine) and told me that the conclusion of the final novel had left her crying unabashedly…not an easy emotion to arouse with a horror story. I was pleased because I knew that I was not alone in feeling the emotions that this ending evoked and also because I could take comfort in knowing that I had succeeded in telling Elizabeth’s story precisely as she would have wanted me to.

I’m not sure where a novel’s characters go once their tale has been told, but where ever Elizabeth Simpson might be, I hope she has found comfort and happiness there in exchange for all she has taught me about writing…and about life.

George Straatman

http://www.georgestraatman.com/home.html

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