For those of you who have been following my writing journey for longer than this blog has been around, you may remember a project I undertook in 2016. In fact, as of this posting, it has been exactly two years since the, dare I say, lifechanging project.
I’ll set the scene. Chiante was young, she was excited about going into her grade 12 year, but more than that she was giddy with the anticipation of going to Italy and Greece with her best friends. She hadn’t quite grasped the true effects of procrastination to which she would succumb in the following years.
And it was in this blissful time she found out about a writing contest that involved something she had never attempted and only dreamed possible. By the end of the week she had decided to do a test run before registering for the contest and paying the hefty entrance fee.
The challenge was to write a novel in 3 days. And write a novel she did. (two actually, but that part will come)
A much more somber, sleep deprived, and highly introspective Chiante emerged from those two weekends.
I had been toying with the idea of turning the villain/hero concept on its head by making the villain the hero of my story. But because I was waiting to write my “true” three day novel until Labour Day weekend (when the contest annually takes place), I decided to write the novel leading up to the events of my villain/hero story. I dubbed it my “villain origin story”.
I even made a cover!
Over the course of one weekend before school started I sat down and wrote one of the most emotionally raw and intense novels I have ever written. I went into the novel knowing it was going to be intense. I had set up the story to lead to no other end but devastation, but even knowing the story, knowing the ending, knowing all the results, I wasn’t prepared.
My villain, Octavia, was so hurt, so alone, and so heinous. She unashamedly did things that I was highly uncomfortable writing, and I think it was through her actions that I hit a block of some kind that kept me from going to the same desperate place as Octavia despite living in her mind for the weekend.
It was God. It was Jesus. It was the beauty of salvation. It was the indescribable love of Jesus for the broken, sinful, villainous people.
Despite my character ending up having lost nearly everything and truly being in a place where she had become the villain I set out to make her, I left the novel with hope, maybe even peace.
The novel was too dark not to have hope of some kind and while Octavia didn’t have hope, the city she devastated did. The people she had warred against had hope.
In hindsight, this is a perfect example of the integration I talked about in the winter. This is exactly how my faith meets my writing. I didn’t set out to write a book about hope. I set out to write a book about the descent of a human to lowest place I could possibly bring her. God must have been working through that book for me, because the Gospel came through when the characters and I needed it most.
After finishing the novel, titled The Undoing Game, I set to work on the plan for its sequel. My story shifted dramatically, though I don’t think I was quite aware of the shift at the time. The next book I planned to write I dubbed “a villain’s redemption story”. I wanted to examine where the villain is supposed to go for help.
This book, Kill Switch, takes place eight years after the events of The Undoing Game and it is about Octavia essentially going through the same loss, pain, and chaos as the first story, but this time, the conflict has the opposite effect on her. Instead of descending into amorality, she comes up from the depths of villainy, scarred, tainted, and broken. And she asks for help.
However, as it seems to be in reality as well as fiction, the road up is much harder to transverse. Octavia slips and falls back into old habits. She struggles against the consequences of her decisions from eight years ago. And she ends up repeating some of the same mistakes from the first story.
Seeing her story, obviously amplified, helped me to see a similar struggle in my own life. It seems seeing the exaggeration is what helps bring clarity to our own situations. But I saw, perhaps consciously for the first time, that I’ve got a bit of Octavia in me. I’m not a villain, per say, but I am a broken human trying to climb out of sin and into the righteousness God calls me to. I think seeing Octavia struggle with the consequences of her actions consolidated how the process of sanctification really is a lifelong journey fueled not by my strength, but through the grace and love of Jesus that is new for me everyday.
I don’t think these two novels will ever be published, but I am not sure they are meant to be. I’ve always considered it part of my calling as a writer to share my writing with people who, through my words, would be pointed to Jesus. But I guess I never really considered that Jesus is able to work on me through the words and stories He puts on my heart.
I think these novels, whether or not people read them, are part of my testimony, and I’m reminded of that every time I read the opening,
“By now, the sound of death didn’t upset her,”
and the closing lines,
“God always triumphs in the end.”