Sometimes, when I’m stuck, I’ll ask the characters to tell me what’s going on at that point in the book. And sometimes I like to challenge them. I find that they tend to challenge right back. Here are a couple of those conversations.
Luke, Why Are You Holding Out on Brigitta?
Katherine: Luke, talk to me…
Luke: I don’t want her to think I’m weak. I’ve disappointed her enough and somehow you think that telling her all my troubles is going to fix that? Sorry to disappoint you, but that is not something I do. Yes, I told her about Rocket, but she had asked directly. I worried afterwards that I’d dumped on her by doing that. I feel like I should be looking out for her, not the other way around.
Katherine: Yeah, okay sweetie, I get that. But Brigitta’s a big girl. You don’t have to protect her from everything. Do you think it could be her decision what to do with the “burdens” you are supposedly placing on her? Don’t you think maybe you’re only protecting yourself?
Luke: Hey, that’s unfair. Who asked you? What exactly is it that you think I ought to be “sharing” with her?
Katherine: Okay, Trent, you don’t have to be sarcastic.
Luke: Don’t call me Trent.
Katherine: You’re acting like him. Quit hiding, Luke. You’ve found someone who is willing to be your hiding place. Let her.
Luke: Shut up.
Katherine: You know I won’t. You say you’re “in love” with this girl. What exactly do you mean by that? Is she just a body?
Luke: You, of all people, KNOW that’s not true, Katherine. What do I mean by “in love?” How should I know what I mean? I haven’t met anyone like her before. I feel different around her. What else do you want to know? I wrote you a journal.
Katherine: Yeah, I know you did. Are you going to let her read it?
Luke: Are you kidding?
Katherine: Yeah. I kind of am. You need your journal to be private (except to all the millions of readers we’re going to have 😉 ) But it’s the only place I see you talking openly about your life. You give her these little scraps. You start to talk and then you go all vague on her. Don’t you think she deserves more than that? Don’t you think she deserves to know some of the real story? Not just your “official” secrets, but what this has been like for you trying to take care of your mom, having your dad take off, the pressure you put on yourself to be the consummate performer?
Luke: I do? I did crap acting the entire last season of Presto! I knew it, too.
Katherine: I don’t think the Presto! scripts lend themselves to brilliance. Give yourself a break. You gave it all you had in Rocket, and I happen to know you did in Le Petit Chose too, despite what you may think.
Luke: I don’t even want to talk about that film.
Katherine: You don’t have to talk to me about it. But try to share a little more of your life with her. It’s what she’s longing for–the real you. She’s afraid she’s lost you to Trent; show her she’s wrong!
Luke: Is that what she wants?
Luke: Hey, I’m not a girl. How should I know?
Katherine: Isn’t that what you want from her? For her to share her world?
Luke: I even like her when she’s mad at me. She’s so cute. And she’s never said anything I didn’t deserve.
Katherine: You are smitten.
Luke: Funny word. But… yeah.
Luke: Call 911
Katherine: Smart-alek. Look, you did this little interview with Brigitta for her blog. What were you thinking?
Luke: Yeah, I know.
Katherine: No. That’s not what I mean. She asked you about stuff the two of you had been talking about privately. What kind of answers did you want to give, knowing it would be read?
Luke: Well, you know I tried bullshit. But she wasn’t going for that.
Katherine: You knew she wouldn’t.
Luke: I know. I was just stalling. Trent doesn’t do “spiritual.” I had to think about what Kenny would say.
Katherine: KENNY?!! He’s your new guru?
Luke: No, no. But he is capable of making my life hell if he doesn’t like my interviews. And I hadn’t gone through him with this one.
Katherine: Do you have to ask his permission to pee?
Luke: Nooooo. You’re pissing me off.
Katherine: So quit being cheeky and talk to me.
Luke: Cheeky is my middle name.
Katherine: Just what you need; more names.
Luke: All right, let me think. She asked me about “spiritual” and I don’t think “spiritual.”
Katherine: But you talked to her about Eden. You asked her if she prayed. You told her you used to pray. Do you still?
Luke: Okay, yeah. I do. Happy?
Luke: Now you’re getting cheeky.
Katherine: You come by it honestly.
Luke: I guess. Well, it was a tough question, honestly because there just isn’t anything “spiritual” about Trent.
Katherine: What about Rocket?
Luke: Yeah… Do you mean emotional?
Katherine: I think it’s connected. But it has to do with the way you view the world, with the “why” questions. And I hope there would be some emotion about that.
Luke: Hmmm. Like why is there death? Stuff like that?
Katherine: Yeah. But if you just answer that intellectually I think you’ve lost the whole battle. One of the catechisms has the question, “What is the ultimate end of man?”
Luke: What’s the answer?
Katherine: You tell me.
Luke: Well, it’s about… not thinking you’re the only one on the planet, I guess. Recognizing other people as important–at least as important as you are. But I think Brigitta taught me that.
Katherine: Really? But you were taking care of your mom; you were making a lot of sacrifices for her.
Luke: That’s because I needed her.
Katherine: You did?
Luke: Yes, damn it! That was not “Trent being selfless.” I just wanted her to come out of her stupor and be herself again. I missed her… Shit, now you’ve got me going.
Katherine: I’m sorry. I just haven’t heard you say that before.
Luke: Yeah? Well now you’ve heard it.
Katherine: Can I put it in the book?
Luke: God! Is nothing sacred?
Katherine: Good question.
Luke: What else do you want to know?
Katherine: Am I being that awful?
Luke: I suppose not.
Katherine: Okay, let me try another tack. What does Luke think about spirituality?
Luke: Luke? Oh, he’s all over spirituality.
Katherine: Are you being sarcastic?
Luke: No. I mean it. When I’m with Brigitta, I really think about these different kinds of things. Like God. And prayer. And what happens when you die. She sort of brings that out in me. I guess it’s because she’s a walking question. And she feels no embarrassment about talking about stuff like that.
Katherine: Oh yes she does.
Luke: Really? Because she never seemed embarrassed about it in front of me.
Katherine: That’s because she’s in love with you.
Luke: She IS?!!!!!!!
Katherine: Believe it.
Luke: Why hasn’t she said so?
Katherine: She’s biding her time. Just be patient.
Luke: I’m never patient.
Katherine: Oh, I think you might surprise yourself. Okay, tell me about this spirituality question.
Luke: You know, I really have more questions than answers. When I think spirituality, I just think “why?” And I know there must be an answer to the “why?” but I don’t know what it is. When I pray…okay, I do pray….I don’t exactly know who it is I’m talking to. But when things have been really bad and I’ve just said, “Oh, God” –you know. Not just as an expression, but for real – I do seem to get some kind of an answer. Like with Mum, I prayed to know what to do because I couldn’t think clearly. All I knew was I had to get rid of all the drugs. But when I realized she may have taken something I didn’t know about–I was really scared. I mean REALLY scared. I thought she was going to die right there in front of me and it would be sort of my fault.
Katherine: Your fault?
Luke: Yeah, because I screwed up that audition and I wasn’t a good enough son for her…
Katherine: Luke, you don’t really believe that.
Luke: Logically, no. But in my gut…I wonder. It seems like I could have done more to bring her mood up. I was just so pissed at Papa and at the way things were going. I was mostly thinking of myself, not of her. So I thought that if I’d been less selfish maybe things wouldn’t have gotten as bad as they did with her.
Katherine: What can I say to convince you that isn’t true?
Luke: You can’t. Probably I just have to grow up and go through years of therapy.
Luke: That was supposed to be a joke.
Katherine: I know.
Luke: Hey, you don’t need to worry about me; I’ll be okay.
Katherine: I have confidence that you will.
Luke: Does this mean you’re not going to kill me off in some future book?
Katherine: You know I wouldn’t do that! Who do you think I am?
Luke: God. Apparently.
Katherine: Ohhhhhh. Now we get down to it. God is the one who pulls the strings in your life? Determines whether you live or die? Whether you get the girl or don’t get the girl?
Luke: Don’t you?
Katherine: I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that I’m God. An author isn’t God.
Luke: The author’s characters think so.
Katherine: Well, quit it then. I give you free will. I let you decide a lot!
Luke: Yes, Lord.
Katherine: Quit it now.
Luke: Oooooh! I’ve found Katherine’s sore spot!
Katherine: You try writing a novel.
Luke: Well, that isn’t my job, is it?
Katherine: No. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And that doesn’t mean ME.
Luke: Is that the catechism answer? I thought you weren’t going to tell me that.
Katherine: I want you to think for yourself.
Luke: Mmm hmmm.
Katherine: This is going nowhere, Luke.
Luke: Yeah, but wouldn’t it make a great article for Writer’s Digest?
Katherine: You wouldn’t let me submit it. See? You do have power.
Luke: Right. You know that I love you.
Katherine: Really? For sure?
Luke: Yup. Now what was it you wanted to figure out? I’ll stop giving you crap.
Katherine: Well, let me look at Brigitta’s original question and we’ll go from there.
“Trent, do you think there is a spiritual aspect to your work?”
Luke: My work. Hmm. Well, there probably is. A good movie asks the Big Questions. And I always try to figure out what questions the movie is asking so that I can ask them myself. Heck, even bad movies are trying to ask big questions; they just don’t know it. I mean, Spookville was about a graveyard. It was sort of a creepier version of Our Town in a way. It was a terrible movie. Imlandria was about finding what was lost and restoring it. So I did a lot of thinking about what was lost in me before we started filming.
Katherine: What did you discover?
Luke: I was only just 16 when we shot that film. I had lost my grandmother, but I couldn’t think about that. I was in the process of losing my dad; Mum was…getting worse. I couldn’t think about those kinds of losses so I did a lot of thinking about what I was lacking. I didn’t see myself as a hero the way Felix was. And I wondered why that was so. I mean, I get treated like a hero. But acting isn’t particularly heroic.
Katherine: I think it is.
Luke: Well, I guess we think different. I didn’t see myself going out on a limb for anyone, is what I mean. I have all this money and nice houses and I can pretty much go wherever I want and meet whoever I want to meet. Even the President. It makes me think I should be making some kind of a difference in the world that I’m not making.
Katherine: You’re only 17.
Luke: How many 17-year-olds do you know who have as much privilege as I do?
Katherine: You work hard.
Luke: I know I work hard. But I’m not making any freaking difference! I’m just entertaining people. And, as Brigitta points out, taking my clothes off.
Katherine: You really do need to have a look at that. It’s pretty tacky.
Luke: Yeah. I need to grow up, don’t I?
Katherine: I think you’ve grown up a lot in a month. And I think that when you act with your whole heart you do change lives in ways you don’t even know.
Luke: I suppose that’s so. But it’s not enough for me. I want to be like…Bono or something.
Katherine: You do?
Luke: Yeah! But I’m really not smart enough.
Katherine: Don’t sell yourself short. You’re going to do amazing things. And hey, thanks. That really helped with the last chapter. It’s not quite there yet, but I feel like I know you better.
Luke: That is a really bizarre concept.
Katherine: Face it: this whole novel thing is bizarre.