Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dealing With A Real Life Issue In A Fictional World

Have you ever come up with an idea, moved forward with it—then have it morph into something completely different? I mean, so different, it doesn't even look like what you started with.

Yeah? Me, too. Welcome to my crazy world of writing.

I'm what's known as a pantser: an idea will pop into my head, I'll mull it over a bit, then start writing and see what happens. Do I have a general idea of what's going to happen? Sometimes, in the vaguest sense around. But I don't "plot", not in the way people think of "plotting". It doesn't work for me.

Usually the story will unfold in my mind as I write, taking on a life of its own. And yes, it's usually guided by the characters. Future scenes become a little clearer as the story progresses and I'll make a note or two as I go along. Sometimes there's a scene or two I want to have happen, or some important tidbit I need to include in the story, and I'll note that before I get to it.

It's my process, and it works well for me. I may not have a concrete road plan, but I always have a general idea of where the story is going.

Well, maybe not always.

That's kind of what happened with FACE OFF, The Baltimore Banners #10, which released May 9.

I knew who the main characters were and I knew what the story was about. I knew where I wanted the story to go—in that vague sense I always have when I start a story.

And then my characters revolted. I mean, big time revolted. Yes, it was still going to be a friends-to-lovers story, a tale of best friends discovering that there was so much more to their relationship.

Only it didn't turn out to be quite that simple.

About a quarter of the way in, my female lead character veered off in a direction I never saw coming. A direction I tried to fight because I wasn't sure how to handle it.

And I sure as hell had no idea how it would be taken.

Turns out, she was suffering from severe depression. MDD—Major Depressive Disorder—to be exact. It's estimated that 6.9% of the US population and 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression.

I admit, it gave me pause. For more than solid week, I fought the direction she was leading me in. I didn’t want to deal with it, to the point of deleting and rewriting, fighting, and even thinking of scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

Then I had to ask myself: why? Why was I so set against following my characters' lead, when I never had that problem before?

It wasn't just the fear of readers' reactions. No, I think this one was a little closer to home.

I've had three episodes of what might be called severe depression: once, after being involved in a particularly bad accident; post-partum depression after my second child was born; and again, six or seven years ago. I was fortunate all three times because I had friends and family—a supportive husband—who noticed it, who stood by me. More importantly, they made sure I didn't fall deeper into that black hole of despair and helped me climb out of it.

So yeah. Maybe this one was a little too close to home. Once I realized that, I knew I had a choice to make: scrap the project completely, or let myself fall back into that hole—this time from the perspective of my heroine.

And I admit, it was a hard decision to make. I was afraid to revisit that, even though I think what my female lead was going through was much worse than what I experienced. It took quite a bit of mentally arguing with myself to sit back down and let my characters tell their story, but I did.

And I was scared to death at the end. Scared how readers would react. Scared that I didn't do the problem justice. Just…scared, period. Hitting submit on Face Off was probably one of the hardest things I had to do.

And hell, I'm still scared. So far, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. I've received many emails and messages thanking me for writing the story, all of them emotional, all of them striking an emotional chord deep inside me. One in particular makes me cry happy and sad tears just thinking about it.

And yet, the fear is still there. Maybe it's not really the fear of reactions, but more the fear of people dismissing the very real pain and trauma of depression and how it effects everyone, not just the person fighting it.

Things have changed in the last ten, twenty, thirty years. How we view depression, how we treat it, even our understanding of it. But there's still a stigma attached to it. There are still those who dismiss it as a weakness and who belittle those suffering from it.

Maybe that's what the real fear is.

And maybe, instead of being afraid, I should be angry. Angry at those who refuse to acknowledge its existence. Angry at those who continue to belittle it and dismiss it as a weakness.

Depression isn't a weakness. And it takes more courage, more fight and grit, to deal with it, to get a handle on it, to claw your way out of that dark pit of despair.

For those who are fighting the battle, stay strong. And know that you're not alone—we're here for you. I'm here for you.

And I understand.


Face Off, The Baltimore Banners Book 10, released on May 9. You can pick up a copy at your favorite vendor by clicking here.

Lisa B. Kamps is the author of the best-selling series The Baltimore Banners, featuring "hard-hitting, heart-melting hockey players" [USA Today], on and off the ice. Her Firehouse Fourteen series features hot and heroic firefighters who put more than their lives on the line. She's introduced a whole new team of hot hockey players who play hard and love even harder in her newest hockey series, The York Bombers.

To learn more about Lisa and her titles, please visit her webpage.


Pam Guynn said...

I absolutely loved this book!!!!!

Pam Guynn said...

I absolute loved this book!!!!

dstoutholcomb said...

I'm sure a lot of readers would benefit from reading about a character with depression as most of us know someone with it. Helps remove the stigma.


Lisa B. Kamps said...

Thank you so much, Pam!

Denise, I certainly hope so. It's not a weakness and there should be no stigma :/