Monday, July 11, 2011

Compromise

One of my myriad conversations at the wedding Saturday was with a woman attempting to write (and, therefore, get published) a novel about global warming for middle-school students.  Sounds like a real page-turner, though I didn't tell her that.  We talked about character development, because she's been given repeated feedback that hers are one-dimensional.  Also about the idea of story for its own sake rather than a mere prop for a soapbox, which is another complaint about her work. 

And she asked both about the purpose of my novel (she thought that like hers, mine was written to expound on some issue, rather than 'simply' tell a story) and the reason I finally stopped trying to get it published. Like so many conversations before this one, there was a sense of disbelief that I would get so far to then let it die.  I told her of the many twists and turns the novel had taken over the years, the significant change, for example in the age of the protagonist from 12 to 40, and the action which ceased to center around to the death of the father to the dying of the mother (though the father's death rises again in significance, of course). 

But there was one final blow.  Besides the external issues of the economic crash which impacted the possibility of the novel's success, there was one compromise I was unwilling to make.  And I'm not sure I've ever written about this.  The agent representing my work, and the publishers behind her, had always been strongly drawn to my descriptions of the land in the novel.  The beautiful Palouse country, which, while not being the land of my birth, is certainly both the land of my childhood and the land of my heart (and not co-incidentally pictured behind these words).  My agent always believed the Palouse was actually personified in October Afternoon, as important a character as any human one, though this was unintentional on my part.  I had simply written as I loved it.  Her sense of the land as a character in my novel does lead, of course, to the question of an author's intent and the way students (and teachers) study literature, looking for symbols, but that's a question for another day. 

What finally stopped my quest dead in its path was a notion on the part of my agent that, because the land was so important, the--or, at least, a--central action should revolve around it.  Her strong suggestion--no, her pressured ultimatum--was that the crops should fail.  When she told me this, I knew instantly  that this was the death knell for October Afternoon.  I could not, would not, write of a crop failure on my fictional farm on the Palouse.  Because it is false.  The crops do not fail on the Palouse.  They are sometimes less fruitful than other times, but they do not fail. EVER.  And to write otherwise would be disasterous. Not merely for myself.  But my sister, her husband and children would read this book. The whole family would.  That whole generation-after-generation of living and working and loving more than life itself on the Palouse farming family, I mean.  It would shame me to write such a thing.  I told her this.  She reminded me that crops fail, that this is a fictional work, that I can parlay something truth in one place and make it so for me (so to speak).  But this is relative truth, if you think about it, and relative truth is no truth at all.

So I said no.  And my no was a final no.
I have been sad, grieved, and mourned the loss of the book, but never once regretted THAT decision. It was right and good, and even when good is hard, it always brings peace.

For each of us, there should be things on which we cannot compromise.  Times when we have been asked to compromise.  Some compromise is right and good.  Meeting in the middle when each person has only good in mind always moves us toward the better.  Toward the ultimate good--God!  Such things are generally about inconsequential things actually.  Morally neutral things, like I like one couch and he likes another so we meet in the middle to find one on which we both agree.  Or even more important issues about how to discipline a child in a specific situation. 

But there are things on which life turns for each of us.  Issues on which we will not, cannot compromise.  Some of these things are perhaps personal, like whether to drink alcohol or not, or more Biblical concerns such as at what age to baptize a person.  Because believers have been divided over these issues since God the Incarnate walked on this earth, I will not speak to those here.  As I say, they are personal.  I  respect that they may be truths on which people stand.  And there are some such personal things for me.

But then there is one.  One absolute, non-compromising Truth with a capital T.  His Name is Jesus.  Who He is and what that means is not merely my personal truth but the 'whether-you-believe-it-or-not Truth.'  It would be well for your soul to stand on Him.  Yes, His Name is Jesus.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Could you send us a copy of your book? I'm sure we'd both enjoy reading it. I'm glad you didn't compromise on the story either. What's interesting to me is the sense I get that the agent was really just looking at the $$$ a "spruced up" story would make and that clearly was not the case for you.