Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learning about oneself through fiction

I know that all of my fictional characters express fragments of myself.  It is fascinating, after writing a particular passage or pehaps some fifty pages, to look back and experience the "aha" moment.  There it is for all the world to read: some aspect of who I am, or wish I were, or wish I weren't.  With some characters it is more obvious than with others.

Bill and I have talked about parallels between myself and Ian Dyrnedon, protagonist of books 1, 2, and 4.  He usually sees these things before I do.  Last Friday, as we were chatting over pizza, I was rambling on about Vladje the wolf.  I made mention of Ian's death at the end of book 4 and suddenly choked up.

That happens a lot when I am planning scenes, writing them, or talking about them.  I get about a two-second warning and suddenly I can hardly speak.  Anything that strikes this deep suggests something going on in my guts.

We chatted briefly about some of the obvious elements such as my views on death and afterlife and dogs in heaven and Kazan being at the gate to greet me. (Forget Saint Peter, Kazan's the one who counts in my universe.)  Vladje, whom I see very much in terms of my beloved dog, and Ian's death could easily trigger emotions.

But there is more.  Who is Ian for me?

Grevedan Matthew Deveril, my nom de plume and the fictive redactor of the chronicles and descendant of Ian Dyrnedon, is my alter ego.  He has some nice traits that I lack but Grev is undoubtedly me: who I am.  He is an avid student of languages, literature, and history.  He's religious.  He's gay.  He is fascinated by both worlds that he lives in.  He is sarcastic and self-doubting, and very human.  He's a storyteller.  As I said, Grev is who I am on most obvious levels.

Ian is who I want to be.  Ian is viewed across centuries as a hero who saved peoples from a dark force, as a saint who helped the church spread in Midhris, as someone of great emotional connectedness and compassion, and - perhaps most difficult and praiseworthy of all - as a good husband and father.  Pure hero all the way, time having blurred his flaws.

Don't we all want to be heroes?  The one who discovers a cure for cancer, rescues a personal or animal in distress, gets the gold, turns back the mob, saves the town, invents something wonderful, makes the speech that inspires a nation, lands on the moon....

Nothing terribly profound in this. I am just noting that Grev is the bright lippy guy I am, a decent guy who preserves important memories.  Ian is the hero I'd like to be, viewed through all the distortions of rose-colored glasses and the elevation of epic poetry.  Major moments in his life touch me deeply as they capture something of deep yearning within myself.  I want to be this guy.  By 835 he is, literally, canonized as St Ian, the Old Believer.  Yet he remains distant, an idealized human being.

Oh yes, Grev is a potty mouth too.  As I wrote above: who I am.

This writing project, proceeding in fits and starts, is a fascinating journey.