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“…reminiscent of the East German Stasi officer absorbed by the people he spies on in the movie “The Lives of Others.” 

I am racing the clock. Hopefully. Recently, I experienced the elation of having an agent respond to a query with “Ok, Mr. Harter. Send me the first three chapters.” In response to critiques by reader-friends, or perhaps friend-readers (!), I have been working on a line edit to excise approximately 10,000 words. They complained of too much chaff. I use Scrivener as a writing program (Bravo Scrivener!) and the various chapters or scenes are saved as individual documents. I have only seven more documents to edit. I have excised over 8000 words to this point. The point is while it’s only a couple of days at the most to finish, I am racing against the fear I receive a “Send me the manuscript” before completion of the line edit!

Perhaps my fear is over-stated; to date I have received endless “Thanks but no thanks” responses with the ubiquitous “We are, of course, just one opinion” added to soften the letter.

During the line edit process these past several weeks, I found myself becoming engrossed in my characters lives in  a different way – which may be a positive sign the story at least works. Writing is another issue.

I was reminded of a German film entitled The Lives of Others. Set in the days prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall it follows a German Staci who has been assigned to spy on a playwright and his lover. The two are revered intellectuals in the east with little hint of anti- government feelings. The surveillance, thoroughly executed with bugs and surveillance technology of the 80s, gives the spy access to all the most intimate details of their lives. When an anti-government document being prepared for export to the West is revealed, the spy is torn between his duty to the state and his personal involvement in the integrity of their lives. He choses to mask the exportation of the document, which embarrasses the government and for which he is punished. There is a unique twist to the ending and I’ll not disclose a spoiler.

I find myself becoming so involved with my characters as to think of them as real people. I worry about them. I am concerned about their lives, and particularly concerned about a truthful telling of their story. Originally, they were an allegorical representation of a larger issue or conflict I wanted to explore. My involvement with their lives has made that larger theme seem almost irrelevant – and maybe that’s how it should be.

Am I alone in this experience? Do others find themselves lost in the reality of the fictional account? If you have experienced this transition too, please comment and share your experience.

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