A couple of nights ago, I watched the reality show, Intervention, a reality show about addiction and the inventions that families plan and host in the hopes of sending their family member to rehab and in the process, saving their life.
In the episode I watched, a clearly anguished father read a letter to his son that began with the words, "Your addiction has affected me in the following ways." His son sat motionless on the couch next to his father and looked down, tears streaming down his cheeks. He listened to his father's anguished words and I wondered if the words had reached his son enough to accept the help that was being offered.
Heart wrenching! I wanted to hug the family and shake his son awake to the damage he was inflicting on himself and on his family who listened to the man's letter, looking lost and heartbroken. It was almost too much for me to bear. The family's pain was palpable and found myself wanting to look away, but forced myself to keep watching. I could have changed the channel to a more lighthearted program, but I sat still. The show reminded me of a murder mystery I'd read about addiction and I tucked that away.
In the reality show episode, letter after letter is read by a family member and the boy breaks down, accepting help. He's going to rehab. Hallelujah. Tears of joy all around and I had tears in my eyes for a kid I didn't know. In three months time, the boy is clean and has remained drug-free since 2010. That information was flashed across the screen at the end of the show. I was relieved, but knew better. As a former counselor, I knew damn well that this kid's recovery had been a long, torturous process for the boy and his family. We hadn't been made privy to the details that surely entailed anguish, pain and hurt. It's an hour show, I reminded myself. I wondered how much had been embellished by Hollywood? How would I know, but I applauded this young's man courage. Maybe it helped me feel better to think that the show had been embellished and a fake like Kim Kardashian's fairy tale wedding.
Before bed, I thought about the ugly things and realities of life that many of us don't want to see, read or listen to that certainly have happened in our world and exist today. I thought of my novel where a murder occurs. I'd written those scenes very quickly, I remember. I skimmed through them, not wanting to slow down for the violence. Who wants to dwell on a murder, certainly not me. BAM! It happened and then, next chapter! "The next morning the sun shone brightly"...no.
I wrote that murder scene in and would have to deal with it. I would have to sit and look at the ugly side of life and humanity in my protagonist and antagonist's eyes. Could I do it? Could I embellish and imagine the horrible event and the emotional aftermath and write a believable chapter? All I'd ever killed was a Maine lobster in a soup pot of boiling water and an enormous ant pile I discovered by my back patio last summer.
Did I need that scene? Couldn't I make this novel a feel good novel where everyone is happy and in love? There doesn't have to be a murder! Uh...no. I'm a realist and that's what would happen in my novel. I couldn't be afraid to tackle difficult questions, ask those difficult questions.
Then, something came back to me from my counseling days - pain is pain. We will never know exactly how a victim or a perpetrator feels, even if we've experienced such crimes ourselves. Each of our experiences will be different and our reactions all our own. I could only write the sections as I imagined because I'm human and I'm not immune to pain. All we can do is walk alongside another person.
Unlike counseling, authors take their reader's hand and lead them where they want them to go. We lead, show and then, move on. We can't control how our readers perceive our scenes and interpret our stories. The best we can do is to be as honest and genuine as we can in the telling of our stories. And, that's what I did.
Then I watched part of a Disney movie until I realized that Disney killed off way too many mothers!! What's up with that?! Bambi, Snow White and didn't Cinderella and Ariel lose their mother's too? Don't get me started...
Peace, love, unicorns and rainbows!