I had a whole topic planned for today, but then I went to the Florence and the Machine concert on Monday night and my plans completely changed.
One of my favorite Florence and the Machine songs is Heartlines, partly because I love this line in it:
In order to get to the heart of things
sometimes you have to cut through.
As is apt to happen when you experience live music, those words washed over me afresh on Monday night. That as a writer, the "cutting through" is part of my job.
I'm not the type of writer who plans a theme ahead of time. When I'm working on a book, the way it feels to me is that there's a story wrapped around a core issue, and that I have to keep drilling deeper into the characters and plot, I have to keep "cutting through," in order to find that truth that needs sharing.
Sometimes writers - especially writers who have a debut about to release - tell me they're worried about getting bad reviews, or they're worried readers won't like a particularly controversial element of their plot. It's something I get nervous about too. I'm a people pleaser. I want people to like me. It's tough to read reviews that rip apart how I handled an issue, and I won't lie and tell you I'm tough about it - I cry. And then I mope. And then, days later, I slowly ease my way back into writing.
But something I'm trying to remind myself is that my goal in telling the story is not to please everyone (thank God, because it's impossible) but to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is hard to stomach, and sometimes it's going to make people mad because they don't want their worldview being messed with. And not only is it okay if they get mad about what I have to say, it might even be a good thing.
Right now I'm editing a book that makes me a touch nervous because my main character has extremely overprotective parents. Even though it's a YA book, one of the truths I've discovered in this story is how damaging it is to parent your children out of fear rather than out of faith and trust. During the first draft process, I emailed Roseanna and said, "I had no idea I had this much to say about overprotective parents!"
Is it going to earn me some 1 and 2 star reviews? Possibly. But to me it's the truth, and that makes it non-negotiable.
What is the truth or core issue in your story? And did you plan it ahead of time, or did you discover it along with your characters?
And if you're curious about the rest of Heartlines by Florence and the Machine, this is a video of it being sung live: