Hang by a Thread Not a Rope

I can’t do the sight of it justice. The bright golden, orange leaves of this maple tree, five stories high. Every day, I’ve watched it change. It stayed green as the weed-tree behind it turned yellow and lost all its leaves. Then this happened overnight. I woke up and walked to the kitchen, said, “Wow.”

I love my high perch here in the tree-tops. Writing all day, I feel like a shut-in sometimes, but it’s a nice place to be shut in. My new book, called, I think, “The Accident” is coming along. I should have a first draft done by the end of this month. I started it a year ago. I’m dying to take a break from it, but seem to be unable to. I’m afraid to fall out of the groove. I wake up every day and work on it all day.

I’ve been thinking about compassion. How much compassion do I show my characters? I’ve always loved dark, messy characters. Some of my favorite writers are downright cruel. But I don’t want to hurt mine unnecessarily. I don’t want to be cruel for no good reason. On the other hand, I can’t save them if they don’t earn it. They have to warrant whatever happens to them.

I heard Alan Gurganus read last week at the Y. It occurred to me that he treats his characters with great affection and respect.

I listened to an interview with Andres Dubus lll yesterday, on Book Worm. The interviewer, Michael Silverblatt, thought Andres Dubus lll had dealt one of his characters, a bartender, an unnecessary blow by making him not only a failed poet, but a bad poet. Why couldn’t he be a good failed poet? I thought it was an interesting question.

When it is okay to be cruel to your characters? Or kind? As a writer, you can be any kind of God you want to be.

Maybe since life isn’t fair, in fact is so laughably cruel, some writers feel an obligation to reflect the truth of that. Happy endings feel like bullshit. I hated at the end of Eat Pray Love when after all her soul searching and world traveling she ended up with a guy. Please. I don’t like fairy-tales, I guess, though I know most people do. I want to see my own struggles reflected. Still, I may break my own rule and give all my troubled characters a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train. I may throw them a rope and not hang them with it.

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