Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Are you all too young to remember that old Neil Sedaka hit from the 60s? Maybe you remember one of the covers. Everybody from Freddy Fender to Ruben Studdard on American Idol has sung it. The song’s been on my mental playlist recently because I’m party to a breakup. In fact, you might say that I’m the god of this breakup. The heroine of my NaNoWriMo book breaks up with her husband of five years. Theirs is not a highly emotional break up. It’s more becalmed sea than roaring tempest.

Still, goodbyes are never easy. I’ve found that they are not easy for the writer either, at least not for this writer. I wanted to show a relationship ending between two people who loved one another but had never been in love with one another. One is moving on to a new life; one fears she has nothing to move toward.

I didn’t capture what I wanted, but since NaNo is not about revision but about meeting goals, I succeeded in capturing 707 more words towards my goal of 50,000 (current total: 18,830). This scene and I have some major breaking up to do, but that’s for the future when I start revisions. Right now I still have 31,170 words to go on this #@%**& first draft, which seems more foully excremental with every reading. Wish me luck.

The First Draft of the Scene:

“Broken.” The sound of her own voice jerked Saja Hamilton from sleep. She pressed her hands tightly against her head. Why after all this time were old memories invading her dreams? The dull headache that had sent her to bed early was now steady hammer blows of pain. She weighed the relief a pill would bring against the worry she would see in Ben’s eyes. A particularly vicious blow above her left eye made the decision for her. Muttering obscenities in four languages, she staggered toward the door.

Ben was sitting at his desk staring at the telephone. The distant look in his eyes changed to concern when she entered the room. Without saying a word, he pushed her gently into a chair and flicked off the overhead light. Saja closed her eyes, feeling her heart keep pace with the waves of pain.

“Here.” Ben’s words were brisk, but his look was troubled as he handed her a glass of water and a pill.

She waited for the medicine to do its work. The silence was strangely soothing, devoid of the tension that had filled all the silences in this apartment in the three months she and Ben had shared the space as exes who couldn’t quite exit. She had almost dozed off when he spoke.

“I talked to Vic. Dad’s ill again.” He paused. “He asked about me. He wants to see me. She thinks he’s ready for a reconciliation.”

“He knows he almost lost the chance for one. You’re leaving.”

Saja’s words were a statement, not a question, but Ben chose to respond as though she had asked about his plans.

“Yes, I promised Vic I’d be home this week. She’s been patient.”

“So you and your Victoria are planning a summer wedding.”

“We hope to.”

“Be happy, Ben. Saja’s voice was suddenly fierce. “I do want you to be happy.”

“I will be. I’m ready to go home. Maybe it’s selfish, but I find I want the life I turned my back on years ago. Marriage to Vic, practice with my father, golf on Saturdays, church on Sundays.”

“And a child?”

“Maybe. Vic’s still young enough, or we may adopt. Vic’s brother and his wife have two daughters born in China.”

“Life in Chesney, Ohio. You once said you’d never go back.”

“I’m not going ‘back.’ I’m going home, but I know I’m not the same man who left Chesney seventeen years ago. The town’s not the same either, or the people I left there. But the connections are still in place. I can go home. You can too.”

“I don’t think so. It’s different for me. You have Vic and your father and a practice you’ll find rewarding, even if it’s a little dull.” Saja added the last bit with a twisted smile.

“You have people who love you.”

“But no one is waiting for me. An empty house and good friends who have full lives without me. Gentry’s not for me. I haven’t given up hope of talking Hammersmith into letting me return to DOM.”

“I hope you won’t succeed. I’m afraid you’ve used up all your extra lives, little cat. There’s a lot you can do for DOM here in the states, and there are children who need your skills here too.” Ben caught her hands with his and raised them to kiss her fingers. “I want you to be happy too. I do love you.”

“I believe you. Life would have been simpler if we had been honest enough to admit that we were meant to be friends, not lovers.”

“I can’t regret the comfort we found in each other when the world seemed comfortless.”

“Comfort’s not enough. Not when your heart belonged to someone else.”

“So did yours.”

“Maybe. But he was not as faithful to old vows as your Vic.”

“You left him without a word, sent his letters back unopened, refused to see him when he flew to Crete.”

“We fought all the time. I didn’t see any way to compromise when we wanted such different lives.”

“Well, if not Brody, there’s someone else for you. Just don’t close your heart to possibilities.”

Saja squeezed his hands without replying. She was making no more promises she couldn’t keep.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2009? Have you ever written a breakup scene or a #@%**& first draft? Have you ever read a breakup that you found particularly memorable?


Janga said...

Ugh! I read this again and it made me ill. Maybe the purpose of a first draft is to persuade bad writers they should find some other way to occupy their time.

CheekyGirl said...

You are so silly - this is a great first draft! Now mine, that's total crap!

So crappy, I havne't been able to bring myself to write in three days. I'm stuck and can't seem to move on...

MsHellion said...

Janga, bad writers don't realize they're bad. Really. Therefore if you think it really sucks, it's a lot better than you think. Really, really. And it is! Be cool.

I haven't been writing like the wind lately. I wasn't writing because my computer was broken. It's still broken, but at least the viruses are gone.

So now that I've resigned myself that I'll likely be buying a new computer come January so I'll have to continue hobbling with this one, I've dug the last chapters back out.

I've been struggling with the current chapter. I'd only get about 200 words at a time before I'd sigh and give up. Then I realized I didn't start the chapter off right. Four weeks of floundering around....

Yeah, my NANO is not going well. Only 2800 hundred new words so far. Crap.

MsHellion said...

OH, as for break ups, I don't remember any from literature that well...there's always MY breakup...I always thought it'd be good for a book.

Boy: "I'm looking for a love like the Titanic, and you're not it."

Or you can have a Taylor Swift break up where the boy breaks up with you in a 27 second phone convo...

Or my friend who was broken up by text message.

Or in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the hero is naked when his girlfriend comes home and dumps him. There he is naked as a jaybird...and naked in his pain. What a comical metaphor.

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - You just made me cry. Lets just say, I've had my share of break ups. Maybe it's reading this near 1am, but to me, this is wonderful. I get it all, the shift, the love and respect they have for each other, the hurt and unavoidable pain of letting go. Even when they both know it's the right decision.

I do hope you keep this. Really. I'll beg if I need to.

I'm about 5K behind you, probably more now. I'm enjoying the writing, but it's ROUGH. Really rough. I think I'll like having something to work with when this is all over, but there's just no way to know at this point.

irisheyes said...

Janga, sweetie, you are being too hard on yourself. That is an awesome first draft.

It hits me as sort of bittersweet. Is that what you're going for?

The break-up that really had me in tears recently was the one in Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr. It was so heartbreaking to listen to Shelby tell Luke that she had to leave him because he could never love her the way she loved him and that being with him just wasn't good for her anymore.

MsHellion said...

Great. Irish has now mentioned a book I will now have to read and which will probably send me into the pits of despair. Thank you, IRISH!

irisheyes said...

Hellie - trust me, you will not be thrown into the pits of despair after reading this book. I liked it a lot (probably because I gave a speech myself that was very similar to the one she gave and it stirred up emotions). It also features a modern day virgin heroine - done very well, IMHO.

I don't know if you've read any of the Virgin River books but this one is my favorite of the last batch she released.

Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...

CheekyGirl, thanks. I doubt I'd agree that your draft is crap. I think we are our own toughest critics. I hope you have come unstuck and are making lots of progress on your NaNo project now.

Hellie, I sympathize. Floundering is the only exercise at which I excel. :) But 2800 words can mean a lot when it's the right 2800 words.

I'm sorry about your computer woes. I went through that last winter and know how frustrating it is. I'm thankful every day for the new laptop my generous sister bought me. Now if only the muse would be as grateful . . .

LOL on the breakup. The Titanic line is priceless.

I wonder how many women have dumped a guy via cell phone or text message. In all the stories I've heard, the dumper has been male.

Janga said...

Terri, thanks for your sweet words. I'll probably keep the scene, but I'll revise it. Thanks for "getting" it. If the emotion comes through, then I can work with the rest.

So long as you are experiencing joy in your writing, I think you're way ahead. The problem I have with my WIPs that drag on and on is losing the joy.

Irish, yes, bittersweet is a good description for what I was aiming for. They both know the decision they've made is the right one, but the breakup is still not painless.

And, Hellie, Irish is right. You definitely should read Robyn Carr's Virgin River books.