That’s a marketing director speaking in my brain. Or, it’s an agent, sitting at a table in a hotel conference room, playing speed-date with scores of writers pitching ideas–trying not to look jaded. I’ve written several blogs on the subject of my novel, Crystal From The Hills, and have yet to really make my pitch for why you, the reader, should give it a shot. Here goes:
Are you interested in psychology; I mean, really interested, as in you read on the subject, are familiar with its language? If I spoke of things like chronic trauma, addiction, the ambiguously-termed mental illness, might you be intrigued? Probably not. Not enough, I hear you saying. Topical though, isn’t it? With episodes of mass shootings, ‘disturbed’ individuals entering school yards or driving their vehicles into capitol buildings, you might think it timely for someone to create a drama around a protagonist whose perspective is, shall we say, not quite reliable. But there’s that word: drama. You need action, don’t you? After all, there are lots of stories about ‘crazy’ people. You want something to happen, or else you need a reason to care about my protagonist. Is he a good guy, you’re wondering? A hero? Or, if not those things, is he funny at least?
What? He’s a loser? WTF? That’s the internal voice of that fidgety agent, that business-like marketing director, saying, “destined for indie!” Well, maybe I haven’t lost you yet, indulgent reader. My “loser”, protagonist Chris Leavitt, is…ya know, special. So are his friends, Sweet and Weed. Even his girlfriend, Jill, has something of interest to offer: something dark, yet compelling.
It’s something to identify with, or better yet, empathize with. See, that’s a psychology word for you: empathy. Can you empathize with feelings not expressed, but rather those that might be inferred from actions. Can you interpret? in other words. Difficult, psychologists say, because we are a telelogical society (judging that which we can observe–behavior), a scientific society (looking for that which is ‘evidence-based’). Judging the traumatized, the mentally ill is a challenge, because they do not express, or even experience their feelings, ordinarily. Rather, they act, and that ‘acting’ makes them enigmatic and sometimes dangerous.
And so, here is the challenge of following Chris Leavitt, a guy who has experienced an ‘accident’ about which he is alternately coy, misleading, or just unresponsive. He’s lost his truck and a friend–Weed–in an accident, and gives a short, unconvincing story to friends, who wonder, is Weed dead? Chris wanders aimlessly in the streets before being discovered by his girlfriend, who then returns him to her home. Though he is ostensibly clean from a previous methamphetamine habit, his life, in terms of his work and his relationship with Jill, is falling apart. And that accident? It is a mystery, but also a culmination of problems that have dogged him throughout his life.
Ok, so he’s not funny, not a hero, and not even a nice guy, necessarily. So what gives? Why should you care about him and his drama? Does he have a conscience, even? Or, is that trauma thing getting in the way of that too?
Sort of. Get ready for the paranormal element, incorporating aspects of Jungian psychology, spiritualism, near death experiences. Chris has shadows: ghosts in human form who appear fleetingly next to either victims or perpetrators of unidentified crimes, existing either as harbingers of future catastrophe, or representations of guilt. Chris sees shadows. He’s one of the gifted. But now they are dogging him, whispering cryptic warnings in his ear, steering him towards a mission that he must first understand, and then, act upon.
Do you care yet? Or, have I lost you. He’s looking at you, by the way, on the side of this blog. He’s an everyman, I guess, and his drama is an aphorism for something important. He’s someone to love at times, despise at others; perhaps, like most of us, he’s someone that elicits only passing interest, even attention–like Crystal’s shadows.