I have had, perhaps, a personal epiphany today regarding Houses of Cards.
It was a book that began, as I have said before, nine years ago, with only the kernel of an idea for a heroine and the idea that she was running from something. It sat with an opening scene (that has long since disappeared into never never land) until about a year later when a personal experience worked its way in (read: my first love dumped me). So the thing that got me going again on it back then was the idea of a “what if”. Over the years the book lost pretty well all resemblance to my what if story other than retaining the detail of the hero having dumped the heroine and them re-encountering each other years later (which is a common enough theme in romantic fiction). The hero doesn’t resemble that first love of mine in any way other than hair color. Now in the intervening years, I met and married my husband (whom the hero doesn’t much resemble either other than the fact that they’re both musicians), graduated college, went to grad school, finished grad school…in short, had a lot of life happen. In that time I kept in touch with the first love, now only a friend, because we’re both writers and that’s what writers do. I made my peace with my ex ages ago and wish him much success in life. Anyway, back to the book–I went through dozens of rewrites up to a point in the book and then couldn’t seem to get any further. I picked up and started dozens of other projects, but despite considerable prompting (read: assertions that somebody was going to have me knocked off if I didn’t finish soon), I couldn’t seem to finish this book.
Then March rolled around. On the 6th I hear from my friend that he’s engaged to his longtime girlfriend. Despite being absolutely happily married, I had a completely illogical emotional response to the news. Got over it in a day. About a week later I met Pot. I had some time, the inclination, so I picked HOC back up. Did a lot of cutting, rearranging, brainstorming. Starting mid-April I became a writing machine. The book was finally ready to be written, it seemed. And here I am one scene away from finishing. Incidentally, he got married the 4th. I’ve been looking at wedding pictures. It’s possible that this is all coincidental, means nothing, and I’m just rambling. But I found the parallels interesting. Whether I wish it or not, he is a part of this book, if for no other reason than the near decade old experiences and emotions I drew from for the heroine.
Do any of you find yourselves blocked on a story by personal experience? Or find experiences and emotions creeping into your work that you didn’t plan on? I once heard a writer friend of mine say that every writer is really doing an emotional striptease for the reader–that we reveal whether we intend to or not, no matter how dissimilar the subject matter may be from our real lives. I’ve found that to be true on a lot of levels. What do y’all think?
I think that experiences and emotions have to creep into our work when we write. How else could we possibly write an emotional scene that is realistic? Imagination can take us only so far. We can’t write in a vacuum, so I do think we are doing an “emotional striptease” when we write – love that by the way.
I found what you wrote about the way you put aside House HOUSE OF CARDS and then came back to it interesting. It may be that you didn’t yet have the emotional experiences in your memory vault to draw from when you first tried to write the novel. But once you felt angst and sadness at a love lost, you could feel what your characters felt so that you could get into your characters voices.
I envy you being nearly finished with your novel. I’m still plugging along with revising mine.
Some of our personal stuff is bound to make it into a book. How much, I don’t know. I do think about this a lot.