29 October 2015

Kyrie - Communication In Art (A Ramble)

I can't get over Kyrie.

For those who don't know, Kyrie is the name of my most recent novel, written November 2014. It's still in rough draft form, but I've reread it every three weeks since I finished it.

It was my first real foray into literary fiction (though I didn't realise at the time that that's what I was writing). Usually my novels are pretty plot-driven (get back to 'your' time before the plague kills you, destroy the magical jewel in the Red Cave before an entire civilisation dies, find your kidnapped wife before you go crazy with loneliness, that sort of thing), but in Kyrie, the plot mostly centered on the development of a relationship. When I wrote Kyrie, I was giving a lot of thought to the concept of being an artist -- being that weird 'unambitious' relative that everybody pretends doesn't exist, trying to distill truth and beauty into a medium of choice in a world that increasingly despises truth and beauty. And so the character Kyrie spent a lot of the book working out those same questions that I had, with the help of the book's first-person narrator, also a performing artist.

Spoiler alert: Kyrie dies before all of the questions are resolved. And that leaves her friend not only taking up the mantle of her unanswered questions, it leaves him with additional questions of his own regarding this almost-ethereal artist friend that seemed a step removed even from his world: questions about what she really knew, understood, and saw that she hadn't yet been able to communicate, as well as questions about the nature of her death (he's not convinced her death was a complete accident).

It's eerie now to think that I wrote Kyrie before my friend died (of lung failure), before my cousin died (of an asthma attack), before half my extended family died (of divorce). Kyrie's backstory involves a family whose harsh opinions she's actively trying to escape (how much do I want to escape the desolate landscape formerly known as family gatherings?) and Kyrie herself dies of an asthma attack. Again, I wrote Kyrie's death before 2015, with all the hell it would bring, dawned.

And maybe that's another part of why the writer's block is SO strong. If I write something 'bad,' in which the characters die or their families are torn to pieces... what if it actually happens in real life? I know that's pretty much impossible and the fact that Kyrie died of lung failure and then so did my friend and cousin is probably a coincidence... but when my cousin died I realised this stuff happens in real life. Real people die, and you can't get them back. Looking back, I think my treatment of Kyrie's friend's grief was actually pretty true-to-life, but to have it written in words somehow cheapens the depth of it. And here we come back to communication, truth, and beauty (not that we were actually there, come to think of it, but this is a ramble-post so let's roll with it). As a writer, how can I communicate the depths of this kind of hellish grief without cheapening it? How do I tune the phrases, the mood, the character's voice to give the proper amount of weight to it without swinging into melodramatic territory?

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