I’ve been struggling a bit recently. The concerns involve my novel and a line I heard in a video by Alexa Donne.
The line was in Alexa’s video on the querying process she uses. As she is talking about what to do if your ‘test queries’ don’t return any positive responses, she mentions the solutions of re-evaluating your work, your query letter, and your concept. Without going to look, what I remember is her asking, “Is your concept commercial enough?”
The mention of ‘the concept’ behind your work is what has captured and is, frankly, holding my poor anxiety-riddled consciousness hostage. I’m somewhere between all a-flutter and paralyzed.
The reason this particular thought seems so unshakeable is because I’m never one to follow the recipe. Unless I am actually forced to cook, in which case, I slavishly follow the directions. Back on topic.
I am trying something a bit different. At least, I hope it is unique. I am trying to portray a main character who is neurodiverse. Specifically, a character who lives, well manages to get by, with Complex PTSD.
It’s a tricky balancing act.
I say that because one of the central problems most folks with CPTSD suffer from is a lack of a central “I.” We conform, we blend, we erase ourselves, and we limit ourselves. In short, we are whatever it takes to survive in that moment. Rarely do we feel safe enough to allow a genuine glimpse beyond the acceptable mask.
I could dive into a bunch of stories of times I have ‘chameleoned’ myself into and out of trouble. But that is for another day.
Some, not all of us, carry a raft of masks and mannerisms that we put on or take off almost at will, though subconsciously. Some of us (raises hand) have internal fragmentation. Think of it as a group of voices or personalities that rattle around in our heads. It’s not quite to the point of dissociative identity disorder, where distinct individuals can emerge and take over. But it is a relative.
In particular, in trying to convey that lack of a defined self, I find myself wondering – ‘Is an agent or publisher going to look at this and be immediately turned off?’ In short, is my idea ‘commercial enough?’
And yes, that concern is keeping me up at night.
I have started my novel with my main character using a countdown exercise to ground herself. — Actually, that’s not so much what bothers me.
This is what I worry about.
I don’t begin by giving my main character a name. She operates nameless for a solid page and a half. Then there is a crucial moment –
“The wind carried her a name.”
My main character hears the name and knows who, more precisely, which version of herself is being addressed. So that is who she becomes. It is a key moment to understanding how she operates throughout the rest of the story.
And I’m just sitting here wondering if it is too far out there for someone without this particular brand of alternative wiring to understand. Well, worrying is a more accurate picture.
By trying to be true to the reality of coping with Complex PTSD, have I written a story that no one will be able to understand, or like, or most importantly for today’s publishing industry, a story that isn’t commercial enough?