In the past year I’ve been suffering from writers block when it came to my novel Miss Mary Mack and I couldn’t understand why? I mean I could see the story clearly but I had trouble coming up with the right words. Every scene was a struggle, which led to me abandoning the story several times. Then one day I was having a discussion with a friend who was struggling with her teenage daughter while she came to the realization that their problems were rooted in the fact that they were both so similar. If that isn’t the ultimate form of irony then I don’t know what is? However as my writer’s block continued, I read several articles on why authors write themselves into their work and a shocking conclusion was reached: I was Miss Mary!!!
No, I don’t go around murdering people, (although those thoughts do pop up in my head from time to time) I took pieces of my life and sprinkled them throughout the story. Miss Mary was in fact physically modeled after my first grade principal Miss Murray, who wore dark clothing that covered her body from head to toe. She also was a disciplinarian which made her a terrifying figure in the first grade. However she wasn’t evil, just tough.
I also had a fourth grade bus driver by the name of Miss Johnson who was sometimes called, Miss Mary. She didn’t really like driving a bus and insisted we all ride in silence. Weird, huh?
Then there’s me, I’m not too fond of children, I mean don’t hate them, I just prefer not to be around them. P.S. I come from a long line of women who were reluctant mothers. So I was able to draw on that when it came time to summon the callousness required for a serial killer. It was also then I realized that I was trying to make sense of my past. And guess what? Miss Mary is the perfect vehicle for that, I can run loose and do as much damage without really affecting anyone in the real world. The big plus is that I can kill and not wind up in prison. I guess this is what George R.R. Martin feels like every time he sits down at his computer. LOL!
Okay, Get To The Point!
When your work hits too close to home, it can be difficult to navigate through the story. If you have a real unresolved conflict in your own life, it may be near impossible to resolve the one in your story because you can’t imagine your characters finding peace. You know, the apology that never came, the relationship that failed, or the never ending dysfunction of a family, can really damage your perception and almost make you blind to the obvious. I know, I had this problem and the only way to get through it was to think my way logically. I had to know what readers or in this case society expected from this book. I had to be God and dole out punishment and correct injustices. This doesn’t always happen in real life. I also sometimes have to step back and let my characters go their own way. For example, would a man care about an argument he had with his wife as he fought space aliens? Probably not. You have to let your characters be who they are and come to their own conclusions. Once I did that, their world unfolded and things began making sense again.
A Final Thought
As with most things in life, writing isn’t about you. Sure you can create worlds and characters but once you do so, they start to develop their own reality. Try as you may, you are not of their world and vice versa. Only a piece of you will live on in your work, but the rest of you gets to move on and make peace with the reality that is meant to be.
Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books. Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad. She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person. 😉