Writing that last paragraph
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Eight years ago I started to work on Armor of God.
I began the series as a narrative guide for my children. I wanted them to have heroes that were flawed, and yet could be admired for succeeding amidst struggle; other youngsters in whom they could see themselves and whom they could grow up with. The exact content I was seeking was not available in circulation. Why I felt this way is the subject for another blog.
At the same time, being a mother in the day-to-day sense was (is!) still my priority. And so the books were written on my laptop while I sat waiting for the end of Jiu Jitsu lessons, fencing lessons, swimming lessons, music lessons, orchestra practice… The list goes on... I chiseled away at chapters between countless cries of “Mo-o-om!” I plotted character arcs while I prepared worksheets for our home-schooling. (Pause for mixed reaction from readers…)
Needless to say, our lives crept into the books. My family’s personalities blended into those of the characters. The characters, in turn, infiltrated my general thoughts and then reflected my personal beliefs and insights back onto the pages. After eight years, they were absolutely a part of me.
With so many years dragging on and the series progressing so very slowly, I would often feel I couldn’t wait to be done with it! Time for a new project. Time for a new challenge. I chomped at the bit, ready to be free of the story that had been hovering in my brain for such a long time. I wanted to explore a new genre, create new characters, enter new worlds.
And then, quite suddenly, I was on the last page. It was a terrible shock. Instead of relief, I felt loss. All at once, I would be closing the door on familiar faces with idiosyncrasies I had grown attached to. Within the space of a few paragraphs, there would be no further reason to hear Anshelm’s broken English, or Emasdouhi’s feisty arguments. I would not be dwelling on how Evander might conquer his challenges. Their story would be told, as far as I had intended it. They would enter that mysterious place where characters resume their lives without the marionette strings of the author. Even now, as I write about them, but no longer write them, I can imagine Evander chopping wood as part of his day, without his actions furthering a plot or developing a theme.
It took me two days to write that last paragraph. I kept sitting down to do it, and then getting up again, unwilling to say goodbye, not ready to let go. I’ll admit I got a little tearful. But they weren’t tears of sadness. They were the expression of a mother’s pride. My “children” had grown up. They had become young men and women I admired. I kept saying to them: “Your parents would be so proud!” I was genuinely happy for them.
Of course I felt a little silly acting this way, but the feelings were very real and overwhelming. Perhaps it was exacerbated by the fact that my eldest son was preparing to leave for university. Like Evander, my boy had gone on a journey and become a man. Now they were both ready to set off on their own.
I had not felt such emotional disturbance when I completed my first two books. I finished each of them within a year and then moved enthusiastically onto the next project. I hadn’t spent as much time on them to become attached. And my children weren’t about to leave home either!
No, it was Armor of God: Rest in the Lord that would make me sentimental. It was eight years spent immersed in the lives of my characters. It was watching them mature alongside my own precious children. And now I had to let them go.
Somewhere out there Spatha is traversing the ancient Armenian landscape. He will likely overwinter in Evander’s village, as he has for nearly twenty years. He will continue to do so as readers scour the pages to follow his adventures with Evander. And, long after we have moved onto the next book, our heroes will be there still.