I had a dream recently about coming upon a room hidden away under a staircase, cloaked by boxes and the usual debris of a basement. I worked my way through the camouflage to the door, opened it, invaded the space and discovered what could have been telltale signs of gambling, or could have just been evidence of someone’s need to be alone to play cards.
That seemed to be the mystery. Had I discovered someone’s secret- that is nefarious- life, or had I stumbled upon someone’s private thoughts and need to keep his own counsel?
Which brings me to this question: How much of ourselves are we expected to divulge and how much are we allowed to keep to the privacy of our own heart, mind or soul?
There seems to be a movement to tell all, to reveal a lot of “stuff” without the need to ever be honest, open, confessional. If every one were confessional on places like Facebook, could we stand it? I doubt it. Do we really want to know what everyone else is thinking or doing? Absolutely not. There is enough nudity, in its many forms, to overwhelm even the most probing gossip monger or salacious voyeur.
Somehow, this brings me to the nature of what I am working on (and, boy oh boy, I don’t mind telling you, it’s become a long and arduous process). I had spent several years writing in the non-fiction vein, that is, essays of both a general sort commenting on family life and relating that to spirituality (short version: Family Life Spirituality) and more personal, first person accounts of the events and people in my life. But, really, that became in one way too easy and another way too hubris-tic (is that a word?) on my part commenting on real people’s lives. So, I thought I’d try my hand at fiction, hence the long suffered task of my novel. But, being me, I must wrestle with the same themes. But, why? Just let go and let your imagination based on years of observation (and internal wrestling) take over. In a novel the readers want and expect to be let in on the inner workings of the characters.
Alas, (a little pretentious, huh?) I need to overcome my cultivated struggle to politely look away from the secrets and lies and struggles of my characters and give in to my natural and abundant curiosity of what makes them tick. Otherwise, what kind of novel am I left with? Polite is just not that engaging, unless you are Jane Austen, and I am not.