I am struggling with my current work in progress, Emergency Landings. An important element of the plot is inspired by real life traumatic events. In order to make the writing less painful, I am doing everything I can to make the novel characters different from the real life characters, with varying degrees of success.
I recently blogged about the importance of continuing to write even when it is hard, emotionally and/or imaginatively. Although I believe this to be true, I have been avoiding flashbacks for that very reason. As much as I try to justify not having any memory-based scenes, I am coming to the conclusion that such scenes are necessary. Emergency Landings is about the journey of a young widow. Without the backstory, the current story doesn’t make much sense.
Tonight, the deceased husband made his first appearance. Contrary to my intention and expectation for this scene, the husband was loving and somewhat supportive. It was then that I realized I am diving into choppy waters. Abusive partners are unpredictable. Any time this man appears, it will be an emotional coin flip. And it will pick at my own psychosocial scabs in the process.
I wonder, however, could I tell Claire’s story without illustrating what it was that caused her to dislike her deceased husband so much? I am reminded of The Blair Witch Project. I loved that movie and part of what I loved about it was the fact that the evil spirits/witch were never visible to the viewer. I thought that was a brilliant decision by the filmmakers, allowing one’s imagination to fill in the missing pieces.
Would it be possible to tell the story of Claire’s emotional journey without providing the exact details of her relationship with her husband? Wouldn’t this allow each reader to have their own interpretation of Claire’s story, something of a blank canvas upon which a reader could project their own understanding of the story? Or would this leave the reader frustrated, angry, or disappointed?
Am I on to something potentially interesting (for the novel) or am I just trying to rationalize my way out of the hard parts?
What do you think, as a writer and/or as a reader?