So, the night is slowly creeping past 3 a.m. in the Drake household and I find that I can't sleep. Again. Insomnia is a strange thing for me. If something disturbs my sleep badly one night, I find my entire cycle shifting over the next several days and weeks until at long last I can't fall asleep until after 5 in the morning and then I'm not able to move again until near 1 in the afternoon. Considering that there are things that need to be done in the morning hours, this is an unacceptable schedule for me.
A part of me likes these deep hours of the night, when the O.H. has gone to bed, the cats and dog have settled in for a long nap, and the world is in a state of pensive restfulness. It's a time to be left alone with my thoughts. But recently, I've not been a fan of my thoughts.
During the past few weeks, I've been working on the revisions for the second novel in my new Asylum Tales series. I'm happy to report that my editor liked the book -- which is always a good sign -- but there are changes that need to be made because no book is perfect on its first go-round. She didn't have many comments for changes. A few relatively minor things here and there, but the big thing was that I needed to increase the danger for my main character Gage. I needed to make it harder for him.
I frowned when I saw that comment. The last time I had been told to increase the danger for my main character, a rather beloved character died in PRAY FOR DAWN. (If you've read the book, you know who I'm talking about.) I cried when I wrote that scene. Not so much because I loved that character, but I was heartbroken over how it was going to hurt Mira and what it was going to do to Tristan both short- and long-term.
But I digress... When I hear "increase the danger", I automatically think that I need to kill a character and I've been trying to be cautious in this new series with the body count. I'm trying to be more aware of death in this new series. In the Dark Days series, when Mira was angry, someone died. When Mira made a mistake, someone died. When someone surprised Mira, someone died. It was as if death had become Mira's personal shadow and I couldn't do that with Gage.
I needed to move away from that with the Asylum Tales. That's not to say that no one dies in the series. I'm just trying to be more selective.
Besides, there's an old saying in writing stories that goes something like: Killing people is easy. Letting them live with purpose is much harder.
So, I set my brain to revising the new book, with the goal of increasing the danger without substantially increasing the body count.
After 12 revised chapters and roughly 9,000 new words added: I'm having trouble falling asleep for a new reason. I'm increasing the danger in the story without killing anyone, but the result has been ugly for Gage and me. After one new scene, Gage was left heaving his guts up in a trash can and I sorely felt the need to join him. After today's scene, I had to walk away because I hadn't a clue as to how Gage could gather himself together to go on calmly and rationally, because I knew I could not.
Authors write these amazing stories that, as readers, we devour, losing ourselves for hours at a time. We walk beside these wonderful characters, watching as they push through horrible moments and triumph (hopefully) in the end. But for readers to be invested in the characters and stories, we have to see these characters in both good and bad times. And it's the bad that seem to be the most important.
I've found myself torn recently. I'm putting my beloved character -- a person I've given life to -- through these horrible events. I know that I put Mira through hell and there were days that I felt a little bad about it, but with Gage, I find myself recently wracked with guilt over my new plot twists.
Yes, I know Gage and Trixie and Bronx aren't living, breathing people. I know I've not caused real, physical pain or mental anguish. Yet, I can see them clearly in my head. I know their thoughts and reactions to events. It almost feels like I created them in order to suffer, but I'm also clinging to the idea that they are going to survive to do great things as well -- and I cling to that hope so I can sleep at night.
The other thing nagging at my mind is the horrible tortures I concoct for my characters. I've never experience these things or inflicted these events on another in reality, but I have thought of them. And I'm left wondering, what kind of a sick mind do I have to think of them in the first place? Do other authors feel a queasiness in their stomachs after finishing a particularly ugly chapter? What kind of a reflection is it on me that I create this hall of horrors in my mind?
As I stare out in the thick night, waiting for those first blushes of dawn so that I can crawl into bed at last, I have no answers to my questions, but I do know one thing. I won't stop writing. I'll walk through hell with my characters, because I won't abandon them and because we have more to discover about ourselves.
Looking out the window, I can't see any stars and I can't find the moon. There's a peace to the night that seems to be driven away by the light of day. I can feel the darkness staring back, waiting for me to find my answers.