Unknowns and gray areas have always raised anxiety for me in real life, yet those places are where everything interesting happens in fiction.
In Rosemary’s Baby, which I wrote about last week (and which is one of my favorite books), the antagonists clearly fall into the evil camp from the readers’ perspective, no matter how they try to justify their actions to themselves.
In contrast, in the most well known virgin pregnancy story in the western world, that of the Virgin Mary, the reader is meant to see the pregnancy as an unqualified good. Mary is portrayed, to the extent she is featured at all, as troubled at first but then quickly honored and grateful for her role. (It helps that an angel explains everything to her.)
For The Awakening Series, I put Tara, the protagonist, smack in the middle of those extremes. The many unknowns in her situation struck me as more realistic, and more anxiety-provoking, than Mary’s story.
Things happen to almost all of us that we didn’t expect and didn’t ask for. Rarely is there a reason for them that makes any sense, yet we need to deal with them.
Often those events change us and the course of our lives in ways people around us struggle to understand.
Also, the unknown often poses the greatest emotional challenge. Fearing you’ll lose your job or a loved one can become so painful and scary that it’s almost worse than things that actually happen. Once something occurs, I can take steps to handle it no matter how bad. Beforehand, though, I can only imagine how awful it will be.
As Mark Twain said, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
How different people deal with the unknown also causes great conflict, particularly when it comes to religious faith.
Some people find in religion definite answers, if only to say “it’s God’s will.” Others find that same concept deeply disturbing, as it can sound as if some all-powerful being targeted them for misfortune.
|My mom & dad at their 50th anniversary.|
People said what they may have meant to be helpful, but in words that reflected what they needed to believe to feel all right about the world again. Often their words sparked anger and frustration in me, yet I felt unable to express that because I didn't want to be rude or hurtful to those who were likely trying to offer sympathy in the best way they knew how.
Though it's an entirely different situation, those feelings and experiences are part of the conflicts in The Awakening series, as well meaning people of strong but different faiths and world viewpoints clash with one another.
I suppose all writers deal with their demons in one way or another through what they write. The gray areas—and the unknowns—these are mine.