Dear Irritating Character in My Second Novel,
You’re hacking me off, man. Can’t you do something—anything!—besides sitting around and sulking and losing your temper at whatever person happens to be in your general vicinity? You’re blabbering about wanting to save your marriage, about reconciling with your wife after you knocked up her sister. Good. Now will you stop being so damned passive?
Go ahead, get mad. Guess what? I’m mad at you, too. Personally, I’d love to rip you out of the computer screen and kick you around. I bet I can take you on, too; your imaginary testosterone is nothing compared with my estrogen. You’re saying one thing and doing another. Actually, you’re not doing much of anything besides all that sulking, etc.
You say you want to keep your marriage together. Yet all your wife sees is you sitting on your rear. She’s pregnant now, too, and she desperately needs you to care for both her and the baby. She’s seeing your silence as a lack of interest in her feelings, in her best interests, in the baby you claim you want to be a daddy to.
You may see it as helpful that you aren’t talking to the other woman—her own sister—and sure, that’s great. Good move. Now what else are you going to do? What other practical things are you doing to support her emotionally?
You’re made your little protests about “wanting to keep the family together”, dropped lots of Very Important Words like “sorry” and “reconciliation” and “accountability”, set up a nice, tidy list of rules to keep your behavior in check. You can call them boundaries—maybe they are—but they rival a piece of legislation in Congress in their complexities and loopholes. And really, in case you didn’t realize, they don’t do a thing to stop the real problem: what’s in your heart. And you haven’t really addressed that.
How are these boundaries going to change the heart of your marriage? How’s it going to help your wife learn to trust you again? How’s it going to help the babies you’ve fathered, these little girls who will need a daddy? How’s that going to help mend the family you’ve ripped apart?
You’re so stinkin’ passive that it’s driving me to writer’s block. That’s not terribly good if you want to continue to exist, if you ask me. Not that you did.
Actually, if I’m honest, you’re a lot like me and a gazillion other people in our society. We drop all the good lines about morals, push for laws that try to restrain behavior without changing the heart, and never do anything practical.
It’s easy enough for me to vote for a particular issue; it’s harder for me to get involved and help the people who are most affected by that issue. Abortion, gay marriage, mental illness advocacy, welfare and health care reform—you name it, I will vote my conscience and walk out of the voting booth convinced that I’ve made a difference.
But how are we—how am I—helping children in poverty or those needing health care or those who are hungry and needy? Short answer: I’m being like you, my dear irritating character, and doing nothing.
Dang it, now you’re making me feel bad. Maybe I shouldn’t start casting stones at you. For one thing, if I point a finger at you, then I have to look at myself and see those other four fingers pointed back at me. For another, throwing stones at an imaginary character is awfully hard on a computer screen.
Thanks a lot. Now I’ve got bigger things to think about than just plot and characterization and overcoming the terror of the blinking cursor on a blank page. Personally, I’d rather deal with plain old writer’s block than realize I’ve got to get up from the computer and do something to help other people in need.
Note: If you don’t write fiction, you may not identify with wanting to scream at an imaginary person. But trust me, this happens to me all the time.