What to do when your main character is intent on offing himself, and other advice

April 22 2016

On November 7th, 2010, while living in Prague, I received a call from my dad. His silence confirmed what I already knew, because I'd seen my 15 year old cousin's Facebook post that our grandma died after a painstakingly slow decent into dementia, coupled with a painstakingly short stint with pneumonia. I hadn't lost anyone of this importance to me yet in my life, and it will remain a moment that broke me in a way that is unfix-able. The problem with her dying on November 7th is that I was one week into National Novel Writing month. I was young, without any responsibilities, so the only obviously choice was to spend my November attempting to pen 50,000 words in-between classes and vacations. I was roughly 11,000 words in to my novel on the night I received that call from my dad. My main character was an annoying narrator who was stifling my voice. Every page was a challenge. Every word was wrong. Grief has a funny way of helping you reevaluate everything you know. On November 8th, when I sat down on a bench in Old Town Square with my small notepad from Tesco, a supporting character took over. He nudged my annoying narrator out of the way and started tell his story. I kept shaking my head as ink just flew from my pen making words and stories. I had no idea where they came from. WWII? Engineering? Geriatrics? WTF? I thought he was the opposite of me: he was old, weathered, and depressed. He didn’t like being alive. With every word that I wrote, I realized we were more alike than different. By the middle of the month, I realized I had written a 30,000 word manifesto of my grief under the guise of Eddie. All the pain and weird angst and hurt and numbness became words I wrote on any scrap of paper or receipt I could get my hands on.

Don't get me wrong-- now I am blissfully happy, in the greatest love I have ever seen, and am grateful for every opportunity I am afforded--but that night, I started my journey through a very dark forest that took me a month to get to the edge of. That's what it's like, right? When you see the face of someone you love, but isn't in your life anymore, out of the corner of your eye? It's like I can catch glimpses of the sun shining through the branches of these pines I'm navigating through, but I won't really ever see the sun again. I won't ever feel its deep, deep warmth fully. That moment of silence from my father pulled a rug out from under me and I've been slowly spinning in slow motion ever since. But through those 50,000 words, I came to understand myself through Eddie. I am so grateful that he showed up and turned the light on for me, because on that night I started spinning, it was very dark.

If you’re in the dark, pick up a pen. You never know who is inside of you, ready to illuminate a path out of the forest.

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.
-Steven Kloves (screenplay), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Mayan M.
[email protected]

P.S. If you’re interested in meeting Eddie, you can read the first chapter. Just send me an email :)

P.S. Please remember to register to vote. If you’re up in the air about which candidate represents you best, google I Side With.

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