The grief of a parent passing is not just my grief, but everyone’s. There are exceptions, of course–parents who terrorized their kids, kids dying before their parents–but it is universal.
Going through this myself, has given me new insights and maturity. It also has altered the novel I’m working on, the rewrite of Unwilling Time-Traveler. In the rewrite, Bismarck’s father dies, but it was just a note here and there, explaining that Bismarck had just inherited the family estate.
But now, I had some grief and trauma from the bedside experience, which I wanted to purge somehow. I wanted to write about it, but not as a blog post or in letters to friends. Some things are just too disturbing for that, especially when it’s about your own loved one.
But here was a chance to put it into words, not about my own dad, but about a fictional character. A way to portray those moments, but altered to fit a different family.
And in putting that into my book, I have also altered the plot again–now combining four characters into two, and turning things into a slightly different track and focus. Now Bismarck’s brothers, who before were just bit players off to the side, are taking on a larger role, absorbing them into two other characters who were more prominent. I’m excited to see how this will change the story.
Last fall sometime, I thought my story was done. Turns out that was just one possibility for how the story could go. At a recent writer’s club meeting, one of our published authors (traditional, not self!) noted that writers get stuck on a story having to go the way they’ve already written it. But until it’s published, you can alter it any way you want to. You can change scenes, cut scenes, alter characters, change the plot.
And my story–though the first version was fun to write–keeps changing as I come up with new ideas and focuses. Bismarck used to be evil, but over time he’s become a flawed but well-meaning character. Madge’s true love used to be Torsten, then became Scott–and now has become Bismarck himself.
I hold onto every version of my story, not just in case I change my mind and want to revert to an earlier one, but because those earlier versions were fun to write. I may want to read them over again years from now. But the one that ultimately gets sent to publishers–We won’t know how that’ll look until I finish it!