In response to my previous blog post (Flying By The Seat of My Pants), I was asked a question: why am I changing the story so that my book tells about an experience that is different from what I personally went through? This is a valid question, the answer to which has meaningful ramifications on the current state of my book and my project as a whole. This post is dedicated to answering that question.
Two major reasons for changing the story was to even out the pacing and add clarity to the work. In my real-life experiences, the situation is still ongoing and had started before I had arrived on the scene. Life rarely packages itself into nice little bundles to be written about, but I thought about how I might incorporate what I knew to be the beginning of the story and how I could acknowledge the ongoing struggle of my characters throughout the book, which leaves the characters changed but the situation as a whole unresolved. I wanted to incorporate the whole story, even though I hadn’t been a part of it, in order to give the audience a better understanding of the situation. When I first became part of the situation, though I was aware of first suicide attempt, the reasons behind it and the situation surrounding it were extremely vague and confusing. I talked to several people involved in the catalyst in order to get a more comprehensive understanding and learned that my depressed friend’s perspective of events was more rooted in pain from past events than the event itself, which were now growing into a powerful force resulting in negative patterns of self-sabotage and self-damage and finally depression. So much happened during that time that it is impossible to include everything in what is trying to be a three hundred page novel. As a detail-oriented person, I tend to fixate on the small moments and their accumulated meaning, but it isn’t realistic to try and include everything that happened; even if I did, my book would become so specific and focused that my story would become largely inaccessible and the point of my story would be lost. The zoomed out perspective was necessary both to tell the whole story in a way that the readers can understand what is going on, both in a physical and emotional sense, and stop it from becoming a thousand-page niche novel which wouldn’t be able to touch anybody’s life in a meaningful way.
The second reason for my changing the story relates to the details of events. Many of the things that happened were so specific and interconnected with different people’s lives, thoughts, behaviors, reasoning, and actions. In every situation, people’s perspectives have been formed by their past and though I do give each character a formed backstory, I simply don’t have the writing space to explain everyone’s actions, nor do I think it would be helpful. In many ways, the experiences we had were deeply personal and because they would neither further the story nor add meaningful clarity, I thought it best to remove certain events, details, and emotions. Even when telling your story, sometimes it is okay to keep some things private, as the public at large couldn’t understand them without having your background, context, and understanding of the world. While this choice does change the story, I don’t believe this takes away from it in a meaningful way. The story I am writing is not the same as the one I experienced, but for the most part, that is because I rearranged of larger events to include the audience in them, not because of the redaction of smaller details that are more personal to the people involved.
Another argument that was brought to me as a reason I should write the story as I lived it is because of the details that do affect the story. By changing the catalyst of depression and the backstory of my friend to that of Charlie, I am fundamentally changing the person’s outlook on life. Charlie’s perspective is not the same as my friend’s but I do feel as if I have maintained the emotional beats of the story, especially the emotional absence of parents and the rejection by peers for extended periods of time. Charlie’s story is different from the one I lived, but I believe that it is still a reasonable depiction of depression as, though the catalysts have changed, the symptoms, the treatment, the mindset and the behaviors that I witnessed are all very much present in Charlie’s journey, her behavior and her life. Charlie is living the same mental and emotional life as my friend did, and, in the case of depression, those are two of the main factors, despite the differences in their physical lives.
Though my life is not riddled with experiences with depression, I believe that the changes I have made add value to my story in that they allow for more time to be spent on the relationships that are being developed between Sam, Charlie and their friends Amy and Jo. Details are sacrificed for a wider understanding of the situation as a whole rather than just my part in it. The story is no longer the one I lived but it is still one that I am experiencing with these characters as I write them. Whether these changes will stay, be replaced by the original events, or turned into something entirely new, I stand by my decision to play with the events that occurred, both to make it more accessible and to draw out new elements of the story. Stories grow and progress, they change over time, and I eagerly wait to see what this one will become.
There is adventure yet to be had and I invite you to come along.
To those who have been with me thus far, thank you for your companionship. The journey is richer for your presence.
Word Count: 107,700 words
Project Status: Writing First Draft