I have a book inside my head. I’m going to write it. Not today, of course, but eventually. Let me tell you what I’ve got so far.
I’ve got three characters that I’m in love with.
I have a central theme I want to explore.
Okay, that’s all I have right now, but it’s a start. I think it’s a good start.
Want to hear about my characters? Yes? Okay.
The first is a therapist that I’ve been thinking about for years. She started as a writing exercise, but she’s become something more substantial over the last few years as I’ve continued to imagine her. She’s an excellent therapist. Strong and tender with her clients, with an incredible gift for insight. Almost prophetic. She sees clients all day, offering hope and counsel, but after work she becomes squeamish inside her own skin. She hates her own name, so she changes it as she hits the scene. It’s a foolish practice but it sustains her.
The second is a pastor, specifically an ex-pastor. He’s no longer in love with the church, or rather, the church is no longer in love with him. He’s more like Christ than most Christians, but he’s also a drunk. He’s doing his best, and his best is actually good enough for many, many people. It’s just not good enough for the establishment and for his family and for his self. My pastor is inspired by Greene’s whiskey priest. Maybe these days he’d be a brewpastor.
The third is a receptionist. She’s been a receptionist for decades. She knows your name. She knows your wife’s name and your kids’. She knows where the extra envelopes are hidden. Never complains. Always has a smile on her face but is filled with deep sorrow. Because, in addition to being a receptionist, she’s also a king. Yes, king of a small town in Ghana. My receptionist is a unapologetic rip-off of Ms. Peggielene Bartels, a real life receptionist king. I’m fascinated by her story. I’m hoping that the research for my book will give me an excuse to interview her.
Those are my characters. A prophet. A priest. A king.
I don’t have a strong sense of who the protagonist will be. Maybe one of these three. Maybe an undefined fourth. Maybe I won’t have a protagonist. In fact, I hope I don’t have a protagonist. A clear protagonist and a clear antagonist are antithetical to the theme I want to explore.
Think about your life. Are there “good guys” and “bad guys”? Really, are there? I don’t think so. You are the protagonist of your own story and I am of mine. That doesn’t make either one of us “good”. And it doesn’t make our antagonists “bad”. At least not any more than we are “bad” because we play the role of antagonist in someone else’s story.
The reality is that we’re all caught up in another story. I was reading Buechner today. Here’s what he says:
It is possible to say that in spite of al its extraordinary variety, the Bible is held together by having a single plot. it is one that can be simply stated: God creates the world; the world gets lost; God seeks to restore the world to the glory for which he created it. That means the Bible is a book about you and me, whom he also made and lost and continually seeks, so you might say that what holds it together more than anything else is us. You might add to that, of course, that of all the books that humanity has produced, it is the one which more than any other–and in more senses than one–also holds us together.
So, while I certainly don’t want to write another Bible, I do want to write a book about us. Or at least, I want to write a book about me an hope that it means something to you.