Everyone knows the words to “When Doves Cry” by the late musical icon Prince, but even in my youth, I knew what he was talking about. How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that’s so cold? Maybe I’m just too demanding–maybe I’m just like my father, too bold. Maybe I’m just like my mother–she’s never satisfied. Why do we scream at each other? This is what is sounds like when doves cry. It was about relationships–how we relate to each other often goes back to our childhood and what we learned about relating to people beginning with our parents. I never realized how seriously I took that stanza when I wrote about relationships.
The first time I even noticed I was writing realistic relationships was when my script HERETIC: THE LEGEND OF AKHENATEN was discovered by a literary agent. Though most men read the story were often amazed that I could write men that were sensitive and masculine, it wasn’t until I was talking to a literary agent on the phone that asked me point blank how did I write the relationship between Akhenaten and his father Pharaoh Amenophis III so realistically. I stumbled on that question because I never thought about it–I just wrote it. But when someone unfamiliar with scripts or Ancient Egypt read it and asked about a specific scene where Akhenaten has an argument with his father about not wanting to rule Egypt (his older brother having died leaving him the only heir), I remembered I had written it not long after an argument I had with my own father about the same thing–I didn’t want to be a professor like him. I wanted to be a writer. Somehow, in that moment, I was inside of a Prince song. My father was demanding and my mother never liked anything I wrote unless it was what she wanted. I was writing my life in all of my stories in the form of relationships.
When I began “The Kingdom of the Woodland Realm Trilogy” last year, I didn’t want to do it because it was outside of my preferred method of writing which was scripts and plays. I hated detail because I thought I sucked at it. When asked to write the synopsis of HERETIC, I had to find an outline to follow. They said it was fine, but I still didn’t like it and swore I wouldn’t do it again. Then, my father had a stroke and I had to make a choice–wait for someone to decide my fate over a script or decide my own fate. I was writing for my father who may die before seeing me accomplish anything as my mother had died before she saw me get my first voiceover job in L.A.
When the first parts of the story came out–in tiny excerpts with little organization and as little detail as possible (because I was secretly trying to get out of it), I noticed the excerpts that got the most attention were all about the relationship between Oropher and Thranduil or between Thranduil and Legolas. I could not figure it out for the life of me. Most of my readers at the time were girls and I thought that the love story would be more interesting–in spite of the fact it was very vague (on purpose) and emotional. I actually started rereading these moments trying to find the allure.
I suppose when writing about the loss of Oropher came from fear of losing my own father. Thranduil, young and unprepared to take the throne of Eryn Galen was like me–afraid of what I would have to face knowing I would have to grow up. Thranduil dealing with the loss of his wife and telling a young Legolas about her was me remembering my own mother and often telling my nieces and nephews about my mother after she was gone. Maybe the moments between Oropher and Thranduil that were tender and those that were confrontational came from moments in my life when I experienced the same. The same could be said with Thranduil and Legolas. Even with Thranduil’s foster son, Tarthôn, the relationship came from the fact I am an adopted child.
Whatever the fascination with the relationships so far within The Kingdom of the Woodland Realm Trilogy, they came from somewhere so realistic to some that is the first thing I get asked about. It was this week when the first reader to hold the actual 360 page first draft of Book II: The Saga of Thranduil that she asked me how do I write the relationships so realistic–especially between Oropher and Thranduil.
I think I answered that today when I had to watch my father swerving through traffic–driving when his doctors said he couldn’t. He wanted to see me again. I was always closest to my father even though we argued constantly. To lose him to an accident due to the illness stealing a once great scientist from me and the world was terrifying. Knowing that whenever he was sick in the hospital, he always told me never to worry and write my book and was proud when I finished it this year made me realize every time I wrote relationship anywhere, I was writing our story–for better or for worse. I write what I know even if I am in Ancient Egypt or Middle Earth. I write what I feel–and often I can feel my characters so much, I have to take a break. I’ve cried while writing more than a few times. I’ve felt angry, happy, confused, irritated, vindictive, shy, romantic and funny. I find it very hard to lie when I am writing because I don’t recognize the difference between the fantasy world and the real world. Even with a dragon flying around, they characters still have relationships. I don’t know how to create what I already know I have lived–regardless of the situation.
Life has prepared me well to see things through the eyes of Thranduil. I always write about a character that has a little bit of me in them and eventually, I often find there was a little bit of them in me. Thranduil is an elf that had seen many things and survived peril after peril. When he could have given up, he chose to find strength and keep going. While writing his story over a year, my father had two strokes, I lost my oldest cat, and the death of my cousin. There were times I wanted to stop writing, but something inside would not let me do that. And like Oropher telling Thranduil the day before he died that he could do what he never though he could do, I had my dad telling me not to worry about anything but writing my story.
I guess that is why my relationships seem so realistic to people. They are real.–J.