Guest Post: Sophia Probasco

New Beginnings By Sophia Probasco

 

The beginning of a story is not always exciting. For a long time though, I truly thought it was. My failed novels all started with the perfect idea: a flash of inspiration and understanding that inevitably came to me at the worst possible moment. Once during a funeral, once during an orgasm, and countless times in the dead of night when there was no paper around. The worst one, by far, was when I was 17. I woke up from a dream with the perfect idea for my novel. It was brilliant, I knew it. I grabbed a sheet of notebook paper from my back pack and scribbled the basics down, confident I would be able to fill in the blanks in the morning. I went back to sleep peacefully, sure in the knowledge that the premise of the next great American novel was sitting on my bedside table. I woke up rested and exhilarated, ready to start blocking out my plot, when I realized that I had written the entire idea on top of itself. Words scribbled in disorganized cursive, stacked one on top of the other in a spectacular disarray. It was completely illegible, and utterly disappointing. I still occasionally sit down and try to recall that story because I remember how it felt: hopefull, dramatic, adventurous, and fun. It remains lost to me, however, possibly forever.

That lost story is much like a lot of the dreams from my teenage years: full of potential but not enough follow through. It would be almost a decade before I realized that writing isn’t just fun and easy, and finding the right story to tell isn’t like finding a $20.00 bill in the street.

Instead, for me, it’s a lot more like growing fruit. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to actually writing something, and am working seriously on it, I can look back and see how well I have been watering this idea for years. Like any tree, it has been growing up and out of the earth, putting down roots, extending its branches, and creating sweet sap to nourish itself with before bearing fruit.

My character, Camilla, is able to exist so naturally in the world I’ve been building for her precisely because I’ve been thinking about it over a long period of time. She is a real thing, tangible and flawed, perfect in her own way, because I have stubbornly willed her into existence with night after night of writing and re-writing. I spend hours examining her-everything she is and everything she could be-with a magnifying glass. Her story comes from her. She is the fruit of the tree I have been growing, and without patience she simply would not exist. Camilla’s beginning wasn’t a flashy bomb of inspiration that hit me as I ran on the treadmill. Instead it was quiet and slow, like a flower blooming over days. It began so subtly in fact that I am not exactly sure where she came from. I only know that she is, and she has been for a very long time. I know her almost as well as I know myself, though she does still surprise me from time to time. Honestly, I am half in love with her. My hope is only to do her justice. I want to tell her story the way she wants it told, and share the beauty of her world with others because she is asking me to do so.

My Character’s struggles are mine and her pain is my pain. I have written a difficult scene and cried until I thought there was nothing left inside me to release. I have gloried in a kiss, and celebrated her victories as if they were mine. In some ways, my character and I are one, and sharing her with the world is a frightening thing. In others, I know that I am the creator of her storyline, and am capable of taking her places she doesn’t necessarily want to go.

Sometimes, in order to help her grow even more delicious and beautiful, I have to graft on a branch she doesn’t want to accept. If it’s a good idea, the graft takes and the story is the better for it. If not, it dies, and I have throw the deadweight into the burn pile, and prepare her to start again. Every time I remove dead branches It feels as if this story will never be finished. It can be disheartening to write for hours and come up for air at the end with nothing to show for it.

However, each new sentence is a new beginning, another hope, another opportunity for growth and satisfaction. Each page written fills out Camilla’s story a little more, and helps her to be more real, so that when its time she can befriend my readers and take them by the hand to lead them into her world, hopefully with very little resistance on their parts. Even the pages I discard are important, they are paths explored and found to be hostile. By process of elimination, I find my success. If I’ve done my job well, and watered the tree enough, Camilla’s story will engulf her audience, and when it is over they will feel both disoriented and fulfilled, like a part of her will stick with them forever. Her story becomes a part of theirs. This way, she can keep having beginnings every time someone new reads her book, for as long as humanity exists. That sort of connection is the closest we can get to eternity in this life, and I want it for Camilla. I want it for me: beginnings forever.

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