Killing the Buddha and maybe my beloved

I am still agonizing over the fate of the character I love.

In her laser-precise critique of my first three chapters, Colleen wrote, “I love this character. You’d better not kill him, either. I mean it.” At lunch with my agent in NY on Wednesday, the idea of a sequel was mentioned. Another thumb up for my beloved.

Elie Wiesel once said:

Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow
remain.


To me – today, anyway – this means that in order to write a true death for this character, I have to know in my heart what his life would have been. And if I am to write a true life for him, I have to truly feel the meaning of his death. I've come to the horrible conclusion that I'm going to have to invest the time and effort to write both and then -- Lord, this is going to hurt! -- throw one version away.

Wiesel’s advice reminds me of a zen parable – here’s a quick version of it from Killing the Buddha, “a religious magazine for people made anxious by churches”:


After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.

Comments

Sounds like an excellent plan to write two endings. Sometimes, it's the only way to know what works. I often have written multiple endings until I hit the one the really resonates.

And heaven only knows how many drafts my openings go through. Those, to me, are especially tough as I have to feel my way into the stories and characters.

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