I’m genuinely sorry this blog isn’t more active. From its inception, I decided to only post when I have something worth saying. Unlike many of my fellow men, this isn’t quite as often as you’d think. For the most part, it comes down to either adding something of value to a conversation, or sharing something I learned or experienced that might prove useful to others. Today’s post is the latter.
Two-Gun Witch is doing well. The reviews have been overwhelming positive (thank you!) and it’s helped me in making some progress on the sequel (about 30k words so far). Which, as it turns out, is going to be a pantster novel because it’s continuing to evolve as I write. That’s not why I’m writing this post though.
I know, get on with it, O’Connell!
I haven’t made much progress over the last couple weeks and, as the title suggests, it’s a fear of failure that’s holding me back. This isn’t a new feeling for me, and I’ve experienced it with basically everything I’ve ever written. As I’ve said before, TGW wasn’t easy to write, but the fear was (and usually is) more exhilarating. That rush you get when facing a challenge, one that requires you to push yourself. You know you might fail, but in the end it will be worth it. That’s not the case this time. And it isn’t plot, character, or the like that has me wrapped around the axle. I’m genuinely afraid of failing the story, and this time, my failure would have serious consequences.
TGW didn’t have any cameos of famous historical figures, which was intentional, despite some suggestions that I should do so. Names were mentioned, but no one appeared. This time, the story requires it. I know in my bones this is the best path for the story to take, so there’s no going back and rewriting around it. Not without short changing the story, and I won’t do that.
What about creating a character from whole cloth to fill the role? I certainly could. More than that, I seriously doubt most readers would realize that any such evasion had been done. But once again, it would be taking the easy way out, and the story would be less for it. Besides, I’d know, and it would eat at me every time I looked at the book.
So, who is this character than I’m so concerned about doing justice to?
Yes, THAT Harriet Tubman.
It isn’t just that I’m a white man writing about a historically significant woman of color (understatement of the millennia), though that’s absolutely a part of it. It’s also the fact that much of what’s known about her is as much folklore as genuine, accurate historical fact. How do I go about parsing the folklore from the history? Yes, mine will be a fictional version of her, in a world of magic, elves, and dwarves, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. If I get this one wrong, I’ll disrespecting a figure of MASSIVE cultural and historical significance. Not to mention someone I admire and respect (which is the least important factor here).
So, what do I do? Well clearly, I need to do research. Careful research. Written by people of color, preferably women, so I can avoid as much bias (unconscious or otherwise) as possible.
It goes without saying that nothing will be from her point of view. I mean, I have a healthy ego, but holyshitareyoufuckingkiddingme (it’s a word!) not anywhere near the Galactus size ego such a feat would require.
Once I’ve learned as much as I can, all I can do is write the scenes, with as much respect as I can, never for a moment forgetting that I’m treading on sacred ground, and comporting myself as such.
And, lastly, as always, if I do fuck it up, then own my fuck up, do my best to make amends, and do better next time. But really, isn’t that just the human condition? In life we’re all going to screw up, and sometimes those screw ups may have massive repercussions. Avoiding situations that could go badly isn’t any way to live, nor is it a way to write.
Good luck to us all.