Character vs Self: reflections on development

My father once told me “The most dangerous battles war so deeply within us that there’s little hope even the bravest saint could save us in time.”

You would’ve had to have been loved by my father to understand the irony of that statement. I wouldn’t wish that upon you, and I’ll venture to say he wouldn’t have either. However, as one of few beloveds who knew him better than anyone, I am starting to realize why the story I’m attempting to write about him is becoming more and more about me — and less about him — with each passing page.

I’ve been torn between giving up completely and attempting to rework my theme. It seems I’m less suited to recreate my father’s conflict with the world than I am to reproduce my own conflict with myself. The latter is a worthwhile exercise, perhaps, but not one I want to live out in ink through my father’s character.

Early this morning, in my insomniatic state, I fumbled through a few of the roughest chapters in hopes of saving them from themselves. The sad conclusion: I’m constitutionally incapable of separating myself from my father.

I sat in the darkness for hours, trying to convince myself it wasn’t so. There couldn’t possibly be no way in hell to save this thing. After all, I inherited my father’s stubbornness as well as his eyes.

When the sun eventually began to show its face, I was reminded of something else my father was fond of telling me: “Make no mistake about it, kiddo. In this world, it’s us versus them.”

As a daughter, desperate for escape, I cringed at the notion. As a writer, hoping for a happy ending, I’m considering embracing it.

Originally published January 4, 2007

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