A reader asked, “Did that really happen to you?” after finishing one of my novels. I’ve heard this before, and the character-revolving question churns in my mind. It’s a great question. One for which I don’t always have a ready answer, because it’s rather loaded.
When I was a professional dancer, one of my fortes was Character Dance. I think this is where I first came to understand that, as an artist, I’m all my characters and none of my characters. I abandoned myself in a role, poured out blood, sweat, and tutus, until I became another persona. The interpretation was all mine (via the Lord’s inspiration and direction). After I hung up the costumes and retreated to the hotel or home for a cup of tea and a foot-soak, I was just me and nothing like the earlier identity on stage.
It’s the same with creating characters in books. Sometimes a reader will say, “I can relate to you,” when referencing the protagonist in a novel. I appreciate the response; it’s also interesting for me. While I can draw parallelisms, such as an incident or event that motivated the story, antics that aided a character’s development, or inject personal likes and dislikes, I’m not that person. Not even in my first novel, which is assumed in the industry to be every writer’s veiled autobiography. I'm just a vehicle to carry out another's story.
If I am my characters, then I’m also a human-flesh-eating imp, a war criminal, and a subterranean giant. I’m ALL of them (because creators invest in roles), and NONE of them (because I’m somebody else at the end of the day). Clear as mud? Lol. I'm inclined to think it's more the moral of the story that speaks (if anything does), which is sourced from a gracious God.
How can God love humanity like he does when we are so unlovable?
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”— Ephesians 3:18-19
A problematic social issue, a unit called to respond.
A man struggles to right his wrong.
“If I had said ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ when they asked me to do this thing, then maybe I would have turned out a hero instead of what I’ve become.
We were trained, hired with the promise of a good wage, to take care of a problem, to get things under control. As a man, I needed to succeed for myself, for my family living in a cycle of poverty in the sertão, the backlands. The earnings proved excellent, and far outweighed the promises made by the controlling peasant guerrillas. But the other part of it… If I knew then what I know now…
I can’t live with myself…
I can’t live.
If I could take it back. Everything I’ve done--
Ach, who could do such things? And if one could, then who would forgive such things?”
This is the story of one man's dark path to redemption.
When Argentine cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio, was elected as the 226th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, I had muttered to those around me that they’d soon see his link to the Dirty War plastered over media, propelled by critics. It’s not that current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (leftist) had treated the cardinal as a political archenemy, or that the cardinal supposedly tattled on or had warned—depending on whose side you favor—two left-leaning slum priests back in the day, but that every person who lived through that era has a link. Even some of my Argentine friends who were just children at the time will be reticent when you ask them about that period in history. It takes a bit of work, or more wine if you’re prone, to extract information, probe through the almost tangible shroud over his/her countenance.
Since I had written a book entangled in the Dirty War, several have asked for my take on the newly inaugurated Pope Francis and this hoopla over his supposed past political ties. I shrug, saying, “I predicted it, didn’t I tell you?” But it really doesn’t take much foresight.
I’m proud for Argentina and for Pope Francis. As far as who has ties, including those who have been prosecuted for involvement, we may think we know but we will never know the truth. In politics there are few truths and it was everybody’s war, the dirtiest of dirties. Man will continue to take secrets to the grave with them. But that’s partly what’s so fascinating.
THE UNFORGIVABLE is on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Bookclub poll for their July 2012 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller reading choice. It’s one of ten titles nominated. So if you’re one of the 1600+ members who would like to vote for my novel, the poll is up until March 17th. Here is the link to take you there. And, THANK YOU!!! : )