I already have a vivid sense of how my novel manuscript is wanting. Never once have I sent my mentor a submission that didn’t seem to have serious problems with it. Nevertheless I still fantasize—quite childishly—that one day, he’ll simply pat me on the back and say, “well done, Brian, I can’t find anything I would change in this.”
My fantasies tend to run in the opposite direction for the most part: that one day, my mentor will simply throw his hands into the air and say: “I can’t waste my time with this anymore—maybe you should try your hand at water-colour painting or duck hunting…”
After all, what do I really understand about human nature? Again and again, I am tickled and surprised by plots and character development I see in books and movies. I ask myself, “if I had written that story, would my characters have been so rich, so unpredictable, so three-dimensional?”
My wife watches television dramas with a much more critical eye than me. She regularly finds examples of dialogue and plot unbelievable where I don’t it. I am so easily able to gloss over these inconsistencies with a forgiving eye—my all too willing suspension of disbelief—which may be okay for a member of a theatre audience, but not so much for a writer.
Human behaviour constantly surprises me—in real life, and as depicted in books and film. Should I be so surprised? How can I hope to write about human foibles convincingly if I seem to have no confidence in how characters would behave in a given situation? What kind of gall do I have to even attempt such a thing? I have never taken a psychology course in the my life. I grew up essentially as an only child. What do truly understand about family dynamics? My childhood was stable and untroubled, so what do I even understand about pain and trauma?
And yet, saying all that, I still feel compelled to write, but realistically? About life the way it actually is? More and more I am coming to think that is not the way for me…
Meanwhile, I continue with my manuscript’s autopsy…