I’ve had this blog for six months now, and this is the first entry where I’m going to talk about what I’m writing.
My novel, tentatively titled A PETAL OF CHRYSANTHEMUM, features the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I started plotting this back in the summer, and began writing in earnest in September. Before the first draft was finished, I knew there wasn’t enough emphasis on that event, but the concept of going back to make substantial changes paralyzed me. To some extent, it still does.
My wife was born and raised in Japan. I spent a great deal of time there myself. Our ties to Japan run deep. We have friends whose hometowns were affected by the tsunami. I remember March 11, 2011 very well. I didn’t get much work done that Friday. While this was simply a tragic event for most everyone I worked with, for me, it was like watching the towers collapse on September 11th. No, more than that. I sat before my computer reading news stories, English and Japanese alike, watching a live stream from NHK television, the images of fire, destruction, flooding, the displaced, all bundling together to drain the joy, the happiness right out of me. My boss even offered to let me go home to be with my family.
Everyone who came to speak with me in my office that day knew I was distraught. The way my eyes wandered, my lips trembled, my words came slowly, softly.
Today my wife shared this video with me, and I’ll admit it–it took the wind out of me just like March 11th. I had to wipe my eyes a time or three. And after viewing this, that’s when I realized that the pervading uncertain feeling I had about my current work in progress had to be confronted.
I’m starting over. Sort of. Imagine reading a book about a fireman in NYC and his various problems with self-loathing and relationship issues. You get halfway through this relationship drama when 9/11 happens. And while the rest of the story is, in fact, a post-9/11 story, don’t you feel that you’ve cheapened the tragedy a bit by padding the beginning with this relationship drama?
The tsunami was real. People suffered and died. Indescribable damage was done to regions of Japan. Entire cities and families were literally washed away by surges of water topping one hundred feet. I can’t go lightly on this. I can’t treat it cheaply. I’m going back and starting with the tsunami, bringing it to the forefront, not relegating it to a background element, a mere an obstacle in my protagonist’s way.
I have to do it right, or not do it at all.