Monday, March 13, 2017

Emotional Truth

I go on weird show binging streaks that fall outside the scope of what everyone else around here watches. During the puppy training phase of sleeping on the couch every night I let CSI run because it's a show I still essentially enjoy that I can sleep to. It doesn't get too loud or too bright and it worked for me to nap between puppy potty episodes with that show on.

Recently, I started a new show for my new stage of intermittent insomnia. Empire. I'd heard about Empire, and what's not to love about Terrence Howard, who was deliciously evil in Wayward Pines, and brings the bad and the nasty to his performance as Lucious Lyon? Or Taraji P. Henson, who was the moral compass of Person of Interest, and is the somewhat immoral instigator in Empire?

I was just about to delve into a round of manuscript edits, and I had some notes to work off of, and I was trying to work out a solution to one of the key points. I found myself halfway through the manuscript, and I felt like something hadn't quite clicked into place.

Then I had Empire on, and between all the soap hip-hop-era that drives the drama in that show there are these creative moments, when they get talking about the music, and there was an admonition to "put your truth" in the music.

 That's when I started to realize what wasn't quite coming into focus in the manuscript. I was holding back on the emotional side of things. I'll be honest; I think that's much harder to deal with when you're writing a female protagonist. Oh, but women are more emotional than men? It should be easier?

No, it isn't. When we read about a male character who is confronted by how he feels about a situation and processes it, it's seen as growth. He's really evolving, isn't he? Being affected by emotions he can't process, or processing them in a way that drives the plot grabs people, because there's this sudden hope that he'll heal or come to terms with whatever.

When women get emotional it doesn't seem all that special, because they're viewed as being more emotional. And when women get emotional it's easy for that to slip into seeming whiny or, in some cases, bitchy.  I certainly know that when my sleep level is low or I'm sick or I'm just in a mood I can be unpleasant. My husband would never come on here and tell you that, but I know he knows its true. He just happens to be very forgiving.

He will tell you that a lot of the music in Empire is not the type of music I listen to. Yet I've been drawn right into this hip-hop/rap/pop world.

I set myself a specific challenge with the last manuscript; I wrote it from one POV only, instead of my usual multiple protagonist approach.

And that one POV character is a woman.

I'd been holding back on the emotions, and it wasn't entirely unreasonable. The thing is, there are some reasons why this character keeps her feelings to herself and tries not to dwell on them. She's been pretty shut off as a way of surviving for a long time.

However, she'd been on the verge of finally addressing the issue that contributed to that emotional suppression, and her hope for resolution is snatched from her. Although she was practiced at keeping her feelings buried deep, in this situation they would undoubtedly start to surface.

 It was a delicate balance, but I thought about the scenes I was watching with Empire. I know it's just a show, and it's fiction, but they illustrated how getting in touch with your truth and putting that into the music took the music to a deeper level.

Why would I want to write a book that didn't peel all the layers back and really expose what was already brewing beneath the surface?

I went back to page one. The manuscript grew, but I believe then end result is a version that's not only longer than the original in word count, but deeper in character development, and a richer story for it.

Fingers crossed.

PS: I'd venture to say that part of the reason I feel Jamal Lyon's songs are superior to his brother's is because he'd gone through the challenge of coming out and being rejected by his father because of his sexual orientation. His truth ran deeper because he'd been on a harder path.

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