“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”
So … I meant to post last week, truly, I did. But then I got derailed – by a book people have been raving about for over a year, by a story so compelling it was impossible to stop reading, by characters so full of courage and heart that you can’t help being inspired by their journey. If you’ve seen my twitter commentary lately, you’ll know that I’m talking about THE HUNGER GAMES. Nearly every minute that wasn’t spent working was spent flying through this novel. I may or may not have even entertained the idea of reading a few pages while out to lunch on Friday, as we were waiting for our meal to arrive. That would’ve been totally normal and acceptable, right? After starting CATCHING FIRE yesterday, it’s already obvious that it’s going to be every bit as addicting. It’s a true talent to hook readers from the first page, but Suzanne Collins accomplishes that with ease. She makes it seem effortless.
My enthusiastic reaction to these books (seriously – if you haven’t read them yet, do yourself a favor and jump into the world of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and the others) has been met with surprise by some people. First, those who can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover them. Second, those who can’t believe I’d actually enjoy a story like the one Suzanne paints in this trilogy. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to, not in the slightest. It was curiosity that initially drew me in, not a fervent interest in the actual plot. So many people have offered glowing recommendations of these novels – including others who normally trend toward a very different kind of book – that inquisition eventually took over. What is it about this story that captures the imagination and attention of such a plethora of people? What is it that’s so intriguing? How can a tale woven with threads of such violence be enjoyable to read? How can you not cringe at the idea of teenagers dueling to the death while the whole country is forced to watch?
I did cringe. Several times. There were passages I chose to skim quickly and others that made me misty-eyed. Isn’t that the sign of good writing, though? That it makes us feel? That it makes us understand, empathize, ponder, consider? That it transports us into a world the author’s created and makes it seem like we’re there right alongside the characters? Perhaps even more than all of that, though, good writing takes these characters and ties them into our thoughts. Even when I wasn’t reading, I found myself wondering about Katniss. About Peeta. About the main characters, the secondary ones, the minor ones. A week ago, if someone had said that I’d speed through the book and pounce on its follow-up the instant it showed up on my Nook, I’d probably have laughed. Now I am glad, so glad, that I decided to give this story a try. It is so far from the genres I normally read that it wasn’t even on my radar for a long time. But just as we’re always looking for ways to stretch ourselves as writers, we should do the same as readers. We should be open to possibilities, because that’s when possibilities open themselves up to us.
It’s funny how life and serendipity work: I’ve found the exact same lesson shining through to the forefront in my writing the past several days. Friday and Saturday were spent working on the most difficult, emotionally-draining chapter I’ve ever had to write. Breaking my MC’s heart broke mine in the process. Destroying her life was torturous. I’ve known these scenes were coming since the planning stages – have been dreading them and their aftermath for the cast of characters – but I never expected to have such a visceral response to writing them. I literally couldn’t stop shaking afterwards. Yet, at the same time, it was also an awesome experience, because I could feel myself growing as a writer with each word. A few years ago, I never would have dared to write a chapter like that. I wouldn’t have trusted myself to tackle it and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting any character, much less one who has become like a friend over the course of three novels, into such distress. But she will be stronger for it. And you know what I learned this week? So am I.
It’s intimidating sometimes, to take the path less traveled and immerse ourselves in the unknown. It’d be so much easier to stick with the familiar. But if we don’t push the boundaries, how can we break them down? How can we reach new horizons? How can we find the possibilities and the dreams that we didn’t even know were burning inside us, just waiting for their sparks to be unleashed? Sometimes stepping beyond the comfort zone is a beautiful thing.
With that said – I’m diving back in to CATCHING FIRE now. There goes the rest of my day…