Splinter of Ice

Author Graham Greene said, “There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.” I hadn’t heard this quote before, but it was referenced in the book Silkworm (Robert Galbraith) which I am listening to in my car right now.

The quote struck me as I heard it. At first, I kind of smiled at it, as I do any time I hear quotes about writers. I consider it relates to me, lumping myself in with all other authors, trying to make a connection. Then, I must admit, I got a little offended. Splinter or ice? Really? What’s that all about? Is he suggesting writers are emotionless? That we don’t care? Writers are some of the most passionate people I have ever met. Just ask one of them about their book and you’ll see. You won’t be able to get them to shut up. You don’t even have to ask directly. Just hint at it. Or just wait; they’ll find a way to segue into it. How dare he suggest that we have ice in our hearts!

Then, I started to actually think about it. I started to review what I have written. The things I have done to my characters. What I have put them through. The ones whose deaths I have chronicled. The heartaches, the trauma. Murder, war, kidnapping, prison, fugitive status, parental abandonment, destruction of relationships, betrayal, leaving a world behind, etc. And all of this to characters I claim to like, to love, to have a strong and intimate attachment to. And for what? For the sake of the story.

What’s more, I like the books others write that are heart rending. I guess if everything was happiness and roses all the time, there would be no drive to read the story.   What do the characters learn from that? How do they grow? It’s the challenges shaping their story that makes us love them. It is their traumas that develop them into people (or creatures) we care about. Putting them into situations we would do anything to keep our loved ones from is what makes them real to us. And when they’re real, then we care.

So am I justifying the terrible things I, as a writer, do to my characters? Trying to assuage my guilt? Maybe. Does that mean I will stop putting my characters in these horrible situations in order to alleviate my culpability? Of course not. I guess that’s just the splinter of ice in my heart.

 

~ S.D. Bullard

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~ by sdbullard on August 21, 2014.

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