It surprised me.
Some books I plot before I write a single word, but this book hasn't worked that way. I'm writing, like CS Lewis once said, as if I am taking dictation. It's been an emotional journey as I'm very attached to my characters, and I haven't been able to "protect them" from some really awful things. And I know they're fictional, but they are incredibly real and they make choices, good and bad. So when this happened, all forward progress stopped (you will note the progress meter hasn't moved). I was stunned, as if someone I knew had done this painful thing that I couldn't control.
After it happened, I did what I would do if it was someone I knew. I went to the library and did some research on suicide. Three hours later, my stomach hurt from the sheer volume of information out there, much of it written about or by young people. There's a line in The Big Chill by the pastor giving the sermon at Alex's funeral that goes something like, "I'm angry, and I don't know what to do with that anger." I can actually see his face in my mind's eye.
That's what I feel about my character. I'm angry, even as I understand why he did it. It's all there in black and white, the signs I didn't see, the need to escape, the feeling of isolation. And knowing it was there doesn't make it any easier to process, even in the fictional format.
Earlier today, I read that Robin Williams died from a possible suicide. How tragic it is that a man who made us laugh, a man whose movies are laughter-therapy, felt so much pain, he thought the only way to end it was death. I don't even know how to process this loss.
There will be news reports and articles in the next days and weeks about suicide and depression in this country, and then it will go away until the next tragedy. And that's unfortunate. We can't keep burying it.
When a fictional character makes bad choices, we cry. When a fictional character feels isolated and alone, we empathize. When a fictional character dies, we feel the loss.
When it happens in real life, it is so much worse.
Robin Williams will be missed. So will the estimated 40,000 people in the United States who will die of self-inflicted injury this year. RIP.