Thursday, August 8, 2019

#69 Inside The Emotion of Fiction's "THINGS UNSAID" by Diana Y. Paul

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****Diana Y. Paul’s THINGS UNSAID is #69 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? My publisher, She Writes Press, renamed my debut novel, Things Unsaid.  I originally had the title Unhealed Wound, resonating with mythology's theme of the unsung hero.  The unhealed wound is the journey of the hero who faces life's challenges because of his or her own wound, a reminder of the unexpected shadows we all face.  The main character or protagonist in Things Unsaid faces challenges and impossible choices.

     I write a blog ( the title unhealed wound about art and entertainment, focusing on portraits of flawed heroes who plunge into adventures of the unknown, sometimes with great trepidation, and are, at the end of the story or movie, reborn stronger, braver, and more compassionate.  The same holds true for the main character in Things Unsaid, a title I also love.

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, movie script, screenplay, etc.  And how many pages long? Things Unsaid is literary mainstream fiction, with a strong female main character. Amazon subcategorizes Things Unsaid under "Sisters Fiction", "Mothers and Daughters Fiction", "Family Sagas", "Psychological Literary Fiction" and "Dysfunctional Families".  Goodreads classifies Things Unsaid under Women's Fiction.

Has this been published? If yes, what publisher and what publication date? Things Unsaid was published in 2015 by She Writes Press.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I began writing Things Unsaid part-time in 2006.  In full-time writing, I calculate that it took about three years to complete.  On a part-time basis (approximately 10-15 hours per week), it took me about eight years, including multiple revisions.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  I write in two places: at my desk (LEFT), if the weather in beautiful temperate Carmel, CA is too cold or foggy.  If not, I write on my laptop on the back deck (Below Right) because I love being outdoors!

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I had no daily ritual, primarily because I am an artist and when I feel inspired, I create multimedia prints.  When I can, I like to write mostly from 10:00--12:30 directly on my laptop.  Take a break and eat lunch, and then walk around the neighborhood to think about my characters and the plot.  I carry my iPhone with me to record my thoughts.

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? Things Unsaid is an unsentimental tale portraying family in all its emotional complexity, tracing back three generations rooted in guilt, karma, obligation, duty, broken promises and the heroic efforts demanded to achieve redemption and forgiveness.  The Buddhist theme of karma infuses the story.  For Buddhists there is no wound that cannot heal.
     This multigenerational family saga reveals secrets, betrayal, love, healing and letting go... and the lies families tell to survive.  Things Unsaid is about the bonds that bind families--no matter how damaging they can be.  This story could be your family.

Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.
(p. 4)
     Debts had to be paid. I can’t just abandon them . Where would they go if they had to leave this residence? But the bills were so expensive—they were being paid at a cost not only to her and Mike but to their daughter. Their credit cards were maxed out. Her income was unpredictable, and they couldn’t live on Mike’s salary alone. Zoë’s college fund was now at risk.
     “Your sister has to lead her own life. I know that.” Her mother’s voice sounded as if she were trying to convince herself. “I don’t own Joanne’s life anymore. But still . . .” Her four-foot-ten body, stretching taller, looked ready. What a shape-shifter . Her mother could switch positions on a dime. Jules tried once more.
     “Mother, I want to help, to be a good daughter. But I don’t want to be like you. I just want to do the right thing.”
     “Ha, why don’t you want to be like me, I want to know! I’m your mother, and your father and I have done more than enough for you. Without us, there would be no Jules. You have absolutely nothing to complain about. We’re great parents.”
     “You know, I think seeing how your mother gnaws away at your father would frighten anyone. All that marital flesh eating,” he whispered, as if it were a secret.
     Jules’s mother crossed her arms tightly and leaned heavily against the railing, watching the movement of the waves in the dark. A dim light or two shone on the water for safety reasons. The chamber of commerce wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.
     Jules had chanted to herself the Buddhist mantra of mindfulness and loving-kindness: “May you be happy, may you be healthy. May you be free from worry. May your life be filled with loving-kindness.” She uttered this meditation in reverse order. Instead of friends and family first, acquaintances second, enemies third, and then the world of strangers last, Jules started with human beings she would never know. She chanted “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from worry” to those she disliked. She chanted “May your life be filled with loving-kindness” to acquaintances. Then she chanted all four wishes to her family. Why did she have to work hard placing her par- ents in the same category as strangers, let alone friends? Would helping her parents through this make her feel less like an outlier? Did anyone ever truly know their mother and father?
     It was the same mantra she had silently chanted before on other festive occasions. May you be happy—her mother had wanted to be happy, hadn’t she? Didn’t everyone?

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? I am drawn to the dark psychology and moral ambiguity of human experience, and what can be more emotional than plumbing the deepest of cracks and backstory in a dysfunctional family?  Thematically, dissolutions large and small, the rupture of societies, families, friendships and individual marriages, the loss of life, love, companionship and sanity.  To some readers this may seem totally depressing, but to me it is reassuring that, no matter what family members may have to face--in Things Unsaid, it is dealing with aging parents--we are not alone.   
Obsession, greed, and narcissism can be overcome. Ever-shifting covenants between parents and children--ferocious bonds-- reveal mismatches that neither mend nor end. An inward spiral of obligation and guilt together with an inexpressible longing for some “normal” family that never really existed finally forces Jules, the main character, to make some virtually impossible choices. The anger and resentment accelerate as Jules’s parents, her husband Mike, and her daughter Zoë demand she fulfill their needs and dreams.  There is no way she can satisfy all of them, no matter what she sacrifices.  Jules never intended to destroy her family--neither her parents  nor husband and daughter.  What she had wanted was to have both.(Left:  Diana Y Paul in 2019)
          Don't we do the same with our own families?  The one we were born into and the one we create for ourselves?  The beauty and complexity of mother-daughter bonds and the power of escape, vulnerability, and courage are always emotional, because they are so primal.  We make mistakes--out of love, with the best of motives, but with unintended consequences. (Right:  Diana Y. Paul in April of 2019)

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. I don't know if there were deletions in earlier drafts, because I wrote so many that I had to throw them away so I wouldn't get confused.  But, I rarely change dialogue--it's in my head and takes on a life of its own.

Other works you have published? I've published two books on Buddhism from when I was a Stanford professor who taught courses on Buddhism and culture: Women in Buddhism and Philosophy of Mind in Sixth Century China. 

Anything you would like to add? I am currently preparing a mystery which continues Things Unsaid for publication projected for the end of next year.  The tentative title is Deeds Undone.  Please visit my website at to sign up for news about my forthcoming novel and also stop by for reviews of movies, both old ones and new.


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