Thankfulness and Expectations

Note: Norton’s Ghost is the Book of the Day over at http://www.kindleboards.com.  I wrote this entry as a little tidbit for the forum and am reposting it here.

I’ve had people ask me if the story of Norton’s Ghost is autobiographical.  I like to think that this means I got something right in the telling of it.

Beyond the usual “there’s a little bit of the writer in every part of the story,” it’s completely fiction.  I’ve never hitchhiked through California, have never experienced homelessness, am thankful to still have my father, and though I did leave school a few times, it wasn’t so that I could go gallivanting around.

At times, I wish it had been.

In a way, the telling of Kyle Dearmond’s story in Norton’s Ghost was a way of doing what I myself couldn’t:  cut loose.  Stop doing things just because it’s supposed to be a good idea to do them.

It’s often said that authors themselves don’t know the ending to their book until it spills out onto the page.  Oh, sure, sometimes we have an idea how we would like it to end, but seldom do our inspirations and characters march lockstep with our idea of what the story should be.

Kyle Dearmond set out to get away from what was expected of him and to find his own way.  I myself felt the pull of the expected as I wrote the story.  “You’re dumb for doing that,” I told him.  “That’s nuts.  Go back to school, get a job, buy a house.”

In all:  “Be like one of us.”

He refused.  In part, he was running from the things he couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with, but I can’t say I blame him for that.  And so I wrote, all the while wondering myself whether he would come out okay in the end.  As the author, my job was to tell the story–not to help the character along to a happy ending.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving.  Most of us are probably still full from yesterday (oh, but those leftover potatoes in the fridge still call to us, yes they do) and we’ve spent time with family and food and reflected on what we’re thankful for.  We sometimes forget these things during the rest of the year, when the roller coaster of life sends us thundering down the slope or rocks us around a hairpin turn.

But in the end, when the time comes, we remember.

For Kyle Dearmond, Norton’s Ghost is a crucible, a stripping away of expectations and an attempt to step off the roller coaster for a while so he can figure out what really matters–and to have the memories and experiences to properly treasure it.

Little does he know that he steps out of one roller coaster and onto another.

Such is the way of stories.

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