Writing in General : Fragile Life

When I go out for a run in the morning, I have three things stuck in the mesh pockets of my shorts: the keys to my apartment – which sound their warning jingle as I run through concrete streets – my driver’s license, and a post-it note.

On that note is written the following: In the event of an emergency, please contact my sister L______. You can reach her at 215-555-9876. Thank you.

Sometimes, the post-it is lost, and I am forced to write a new one, which is quickly folded around the driver’s license (a choice of neatness and habit). A cell phone would make more sense, but only in an emergency context; as it applies to running, such a choice would only cause my phone to meet with the pavement regularly.

You or I would think nothing of having an emergency number on our phone; but writing it down repeatedly, along with a message, creates in me an odd feeling of uncertainty and numbered days. Youth is not accustomed to dealing with mortality; Youth will think of it as a tragedy to lose one’s life in these, the years of promise and vigor.

I try to shake that notion, and think of it as a simple precaution. If I am the unfortunate victim of someone’s poor driving, I’d like for my family to know it. Hence, the post-it.

As I laced up this morning, my thoughts wandered to death in fiction; too often, writers will kill for the sake of a shock, or convenience. The deaths that truly affect us are the ones that come out of nowhere, that, sometimes, will make no sense – such as a young man, out on a morning run, hit by an out-of-control car. We are not reminded of the killer’s cruel touch, or a heroic deed with a death like that. We are reminded, instead, of the fragile lives we live.

When you write, use that. Know that. Most people will never know a brave moment in their life, as we see them in books or on the screen; but they will know a weak moment – a fragile moment – not unlike the one I described. They will connect with it to a much greater degree, and it offers you a powerful opportunity for plot and character development.

How your characters navigate tragedy is up to you; I only ask that you do it well.


P.S. If you should be interested in reading a great book dealing with life’s fragile moments, I can’t recommend Inio Asano’s Solanin enough.


4 responses to “Writing in General : Fragile Life

  1. See now your making me reconsider my killing off one of the main protag’s at the end of my novella…

  2. For some reason, this blog makes me think of a film I like very much called Stranger than Fiction. It’s about writing and death, and ordinary characters and extraordinary fates. have you seen it?

    • Funny you should mention it!

      I just saw that movie for the first time on Sunday. It was amazing.

      …and by amazing, I mean I bawled my eyes out.

  3. I love it. Will Farrell (is that how you spell his name?) is a revelation – such an unexpectedly beautifully understated (and moving) performance. And who would have thought that Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson would have such a great onscreen rapport?

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