The Big Muddy

Every New Beginning, by Elizabeth L. BarrettWriters have a story—or even stories—in them that are intensely personal, stories that they have to tell. Often they experienced something painful or life altering or tragic, and it sits in their gut like a river clogged with mud and weeds and dead fish. Their creativity is stopped up by this foul water—what I call the Big Muddy—and they have to write it out.

Good fiction tells a story about a character readers care about and understand on a personal level, and yet the character and story are also universal. Sometimes when writers try to write out the mess inside them, they write a story that is too personal and lacks the universal. Readers shy away from the intimate pain. But other times the writer uncovers the universal in his or her past and writes a piece of fiction that readers can find a truth in.

Every New Beginning is about marriage and divorce and new love. And yes, I was married and divorced and found new love. So to an extent, this novel is personal to me, is a delving into that mucky river inside me, yet I also strove to make it universal. And it is a work of fiction. I am not the main character, Ryanne, although we share some characteristics. But like all good fiction writers, I exaggerated those characteristics. And although Ryanne’s marriage and divorce may strike chords of familiarity in some readers, I exaggerated there too. My own life was not that bad.

New love, however, is difficult to exaggerate, because it is already so amazing and soul shaking. We have all experienced it, the thrill, the joy, the obsession (in a good way), the sense that the world has become a magical place. So when I created a new love for Ryanne, I did look to my own life. Sebastian is very like the man I fell in love with when I was ready for a new love in my life. This is my love letter to him.




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In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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