Today has been an interesting day, Sam. I believe it has been quite a usual one in the day in the life of a writer such as myself; however, this is the first time I am documenting it. Perhaps I will be doing so more often. I predict it would be nice just to talk about it like no one is listening/reading this post anyway.
While I was on Facebook during my lunch between classes, I came across a link to a song ‘Say Something’ by A Great Big World. I recall just hearing it the other day when my room mate played it. I was familiar with the track, my sister had mentioned it to me before, and, curious, I decided to YouTube it. My intrigue was fuelled mostly by the tone of the song that I held in my head. Thus, from the first utterance of the lyrics, I had no idea how much the song would impact me, rule the whole rest of my day today like I had just listened to a great orator deliver a speech I could not get out of my head.
‘Say Something’ I know from the initial impression it gives, and perhaps the artist intends it to be so, that the song is about two lovers going through some kind of rough patch. However, the beauty of art is that it can be interpreted as many things as you could imagine. I came up with a quite different take on the song, which reflects the novella I am writing right now: Project Stripes. The story, as you might be familiar with from other posts, is about a man trying to recover from the loss of his father during his tour in Afghanistan. I understood this song to be one playing out the events that begin before the book starts, six months before. I pictured the beginning opening on two men in uniform, an officer and deliverer, stepping up to the door of my protagonist, knocking, and waiting. When the door is answered by my main character, the first words of the song are uttered. I can see clear as day the whole scene as if it really happened. As soon as my character sees the men, he knows exactly what they are here for, and he slams the door in their faces crying out “no!” and for them to leave. From this point, my imagination takes my character through multiple instances in which he spirals into a depression he knows not how to climb out of. His father’s death is something he cannot face, so he does everything he can to ignore the reality now streaking his life. At the ending crescendo of the chorus, my character ends up at a point in the beginning of the cannon novel. Only this time, I re-imagined the scene with the new emotions I received from the song. So I decided to experiment with the draft and add a half a page to the beginning of the second chapter. I don’t know at this point if it is appropriate or if it works with the tone I started the story with, but right now it feels right. I want to get everything out on the table about my character in the beginning, so the reader is unable to have too many questions about how deeply his father’s death has effected him. I’m sure at some point in the future, when I am reading through the book again, that I will be able to determine whether or not this addition fits with what I already have.
All I know now is that a song has not done this much to me in a long time. Everything in my day has revolved around the emotion I got from listening to this, ingraining it into my skull, so it played even when I was not listening. Yes, I may have participated in class or the like, but I was not one hundred percent there. Even at the gym, which I had to convince myself to go to, the usual motivation I have while working out lacked. I was amazed.
Sitting here now, having the song on repeat as I write this, I look back and can’t believe how much this story has grown for me. Two years ago, when I first developed it after a traumatic event myself, it seemed like just a way of sorting things out and exploring a kind of genre I’m not accustomed to writing religiously, literary fiction (with some ‘magic’ here and there). On the bus home today, I realized that it was not particularly the song that had drafted these images, evoked these emotions, it was my character himself that did it. I am still in disbelief at how real he has become, how real all of the characters in the novel have become to me. He has come to life inside my imagination and shown me a part of his life I only wondered about while writing Project Stripes. As I’m sure many writers desire this to happen to them, I am thrilled that my constant never ceasing devotion to the nurturing of Stripes has earned me the honour of having characters that tell me what to write, how to view their story, instead of me playing dictator all the time. As much as I want to include everything I have seen because of this song, I know that for the sake of the story, they are not needed. These memories, these potent images of my main character are for me only. I am so glad to have them to myself. I keep them because they tell me so much about my character. I have never experienced something as traumatic as losing a father to war; my grandfather died after his service, but he was not in the midst of battle. And you know what, Sam, I don’t think I need to experience it first hand. That is the wonderful thing about imagination. You have all the power and potential you need to imagine things so foreign to your life. This song combined with my imagination has led me to feel emotions of grief, pain, fear, and love that I never knew a person, much less me, could feel. I don’t need to lose a father to understand how devastating an impact it could have on my main character. Together, we have a mutual understanding of what it is like to want to run away from the truth, from reality, and no matter how much our loved ones want to help, we will not yield to the shedding of light.
I am glad to have shared this revelation with you. It feels good to see it in writing how far as a writer I have come, how far all the doubt and elation has brought me. I know that I still have a long way to go until I see Project Stripes published, but I am glad to have real proof inside me that one day it will. Sharing what I have with my main character tells me that much. How could this story not be worth telling for others to hear if I can feel so much for the struggles he will go through? In my head I go through the plot of the novel and smile when I think of how much my character goes through to heal and find meaning in a life without a father. He finds independence; he becomes closer to his mother; he expresses his love to a woman he shares so much with; he finds peace and happiness in the memory of a fallen warrior.
After today, I think ‘Say Something’ will stick with me whenever I open the pages of Project Stripes to work out the kinks still there. I hope it does. It taught me a lot about myself and the rewards one can have through persistence and patience.
“…and anywhere I would have followed you.”