A Gift & A Curse

As I’m nearly the end of the first week of this Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, I’m finding the going very difficult. It’s not the writing, though. Well, it is the writing, but not in the usual way. I haven’t run out of ideas (yet), and in fact, by moving the beginning of the story to the day before the main character’s father dies in a little Prologue has really opened up the possibilities (and allowed the writing to flow). The truth is, there’s something different this time, something that wasn’t there during my first few attempts that can either really propel this book forward or drive it straight into the ground.

I’ve actually lost my stepfather.

Before, I wasn’t able to capture anything of grief, because I hadn’t really lost anyone close to me before, certainly not anyone who helped raised me. I didn’t really know what that felt like. I was bereft of all the little details of losing someone. Now, I’m not. On the one hand, that aids me in feeling the feelings and writing about them. On the other hand, I have to feel the feelings.

I can’t simply go back and look up all of what I was feeling at that time. There was a sort of radio silence at that time. I didn’t write much of anything, related to that time or otherwise. I tried to right about it, but not much came out. I tried to cry about it, but that didn’t really happen either, not right away. So, in order to relate how grief feels, I actually have to grieve. Which is affecting me in the most curious ways (I think I meant affect, but it could be effect; those always give me trouble).

Some of the things I never thought about are sneaking into the story and hitting me in the face. I reach in my head for something to say, and pull out a little snippet of memory I’d long forgotten. I won’t share what I’ve used so far (I saw a blog book tour where the author revealed all of these “secrets” about the book, and it seemed neat enough for me to want to try later…and I’m notoriously protective of my work until it’s “done”), but it’s the tiny details that are getting me.

One thing I will share. The main character is at the funeral (and subsequently the repast), looking at all of these people who have come out. Some of the people are business associates of her father’s, some are youth he mentored, and some are from a nursing home where he volunteered. Instead of being happy to see all of these people whose lives have been touched by her father, she feels angry. They’ve stolen precious moments she could have had with her father that are lost forever. She’s felt next to nothing up to this point, and when she finally feels something, it’s this anger. I did not feel this way at my stepfather’s funeral, no. But I did feel angry at another time during the visiting of relatives, and as the visiting tapered off. That feeling was so hard to process for me, so I didn’t. Now here I am trying to write about it.

It all makes me wonder how valuable first hand experience of something really is to telling the story. Did someone close to me have to die in order for me to do this story justice? Is how close the subject is hindering me more than it’s helping me? What do you all think?