The book that made me want to become a writer

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It all started around 12pm, on a Saturday, the 24th of December, 2011. 

My twelve-year old self was running around our (then) house in Paris, wearing an oversized, puff-sleved, black dress of linen – trying to smile and make everyone around me happy, as a failed attempt to bring back the lost joy in our faces. 

I acted like I was content that day, but actually, I had a major headache and my mind was playing around with a toxic thought; the notion that we would stay in France forever, and never come back to our real home. And what would happen to our dear father? Was our lives built up to a coming catastrophe? 

It was in the middle of all the trials, and we were spending our Christmas away from Norway, for the very first time. 

As we were unwrapping presents, I realised that all of our faces were covered with masks. Fake smiles and corny laughter. Encouraging words that didn’t really mean anything. All of us were thinking about one thing and one thing only; our beloved father, who would soon, probably, most likely be taken away from us. 

But there wasn’t anything left for us to do, than to put on that mask. Time had run before us. The wind was changing. A new year was approaching. Presumably it was the year in which our lives would change forever.  

So I continued smiling. I laughed. I joked around. I comforted myself with the fact that we were together in our common fear. See, I was not the only one. Helpless like a twelve year old. That was the state of mind that we were all in that day. And yet, small sensations never felt so great. The touch of my parents hand on my head, the walk around our house and a garden so big you could get lost among the trees and the bushes. I’d listen carefully to every little word my father told me, because I knew that today, tomorrow, or the day after could be the last time I heard him speak for a very long time.

And before I knew it – it was lying on my lap, wrapped in brown paper, covered with a red ribbon. The book that would change my life forever. The book that seemed doll and boring at first glance, but would take my breath away in a couple of months later. The present was from my mother and the cover read: “Eva Luna” by Isabel Allende. 

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“I read it when I was about your age.” my mother said. “Now it’s your turn.” 

I eyeballed the cover for a long time, then flipped it to the other side and read the plot-summary: 

Eva Luna is the story of the main character, Eva Luna and the people and events in her life that shape her. Born to a servant in a South American country, Eva lives a varied life, sometimes exciting, sometimes, frightening, however she never lets adversity keep her down. Eva strives to persevere, and in the end, finds the happiness that eludes so many of her acquaintances through the years.

After I had finished reading it out loud for my family, I placed the book gently on the table and thought to myself: I haven’t read in so long. I’ll probably never read this one. How can one read anyway, when there are so many things that are completely uncontrollable in ones life?

Well, it turned out I was wrong. Two months later, I picked it up and started reading the first page. I never put it down again.

All of a sudden, I was able to let go of the painful presence. I could take part in someone else’s life now. I could engage in someone else’s sorrows, heartbreaks, family-problems and poverty. The world seemed bigger with all these new, exciting characters in my life. Crying didn’t seem so pathetic anymore, because the next time I teared up, I shared the moment with her; Eva Luna. A character in a book had become my dearest friend, and I was determent to keep her. 

The day I finished reading the book, I couldn’t wait to write my own. A million different ideas were boiling in my head. Characters were forming everyday. I couldn’t wait another second. I had to write it all down. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is – if you read something truly mind-blowing, yet at the same time, there is an inner voice in your head saying: I could do the same! – then listen to this voice! Go ahead and do it. BUT it is hard. I can guarantee you that. You’ll start writing a draft of a story. You’ll think it’s amazing and you’ll consider it a finished project. Then, a couple of weeks later when you return to it – your jaw will drop over how bad it is. TRUST ME. It happens to everyone. Remember, every professional was once an amateur. The only thing you need to do is to just sit down and do it. 

First, organise everything. Then you can go with the flow.

Create a plot.

Invent characters that will fit into this plot.

Make your characters come alive. 

Include a hero and a villain. 

Include power-players and mentors. 

Choose a plot-structure. Don’t be experimental about this. YOU NEED A PLOT STRUCTURE if you want anyone to want to read it. 

The hero should have a character-developement.

There should be a question asked in the beginning, and an answer for this question at the very end. ALWAYS. 

And now all you have to do is write. It’s that simple. Yet at the same time, that hard. 

“Eva Luna” may not be the book that inspired you/will inspire you to start. But I hope this article will. 

I discovered my writing at the most unexpected time and I hope you will too. Remember, one can always escape the horridness of ones reality by diving into someone else’s. Either a character in a book, or ones own. 

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

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