Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Love/Hate Relationship: The Book Thief on Writing


                Some time last fall I went to the movie with my daughter.  I watched the previews and goose bumps formed when I heard about the story of a young girl called the Book Thief.  I presumed she stole/saved books during the reign of Hitler and his Nazi regime.  I noted the release date to put the movie on my to do list.  Alas, the movie didn’t come to our small community.  When I learned the story started out as book, “The Book Thief” went to the top of my reading list.  After the New Year, I began reading.

                Of all the books she stole, only one was saved from a book burning.  The author went beyond that typical assumption.  The first book she stole was due to carelessness on the owner’s part.  The book thief didn’t even know how to read at the time of the theft.  The story was truly amazing and I highly recommend it.  I wanted to share a couple of quotes.

                As all people know, war causes innumerable damage to the psyche of all involved.  Really, life in general causes damage.  As a writer, I delve into the suffering of characters.  Each time, a piece of me is left behind.  The other day, while working on a scene, I cried and cried.  I felt the pain of my character.  This quote resonated.  “’Don’t punish yourself,’ she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too.  That was writing” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 524.  To some extent, a writer does have to punish themselves.  I know I feel that way sometimes.  I take myself back to the heart wrenching feelings I have lived through to be able to write of similar emotions for my characters.  The process hurts.  Yet, happiness can be found.  I get to cheer on my character and feel their success.  I feel very happy when a reader understands the scene.

                The past two weeks, I have been in a painful time.  I am trying to write new stories and scenes but the words fail to flow from my thoughts, through my fingertips, and onto the page.  Each word falls flat and my ideas seem to be vague or cluttered.  “Words are so heavy, she thought, but as the night wore on, she was able to complete eleven pages” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 526.  In this quote, the book thief reads eleven pages which under the circumstances is an amazing feat.  In fact, comparing my writing life to the book is completely inadequate due to the heaviness of the topic; yet, the quotes are so all encompassing that they fit for a writing life.  Words can be very heavy.  They can bog down a scene and leave the writer at a loss on how to continue. 

                In January, I dropped my manuscript off with an editing friend.  This novel has lived with me for over sixteen years.  For the last five years, I have actively written, rewritten, edited, and worked on all these pages.  I am far from finished for the project is at least a three book series.  I still have two more books to work on.  “I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 528.  This is definitely how I feel about all the fiction pieces I have written.  I always hope the words are right.

                For some reason, the local theater finally brought The Book Thief to our community.  I took the opportunity last night to watch the film.  As is the case with a movie, many beautiful scenes were left out as were my favorite quotes.  I still recommend reading the book because the author “made them [the words] right.”

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