Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can Someone Lend Me Some Angst?

by Gigi

When I set out to write a novel, I knew there would be trouble.

Sure, I had so tons of plot ideas, and characters screaming at me to tell their stories. I've never been lazy, so finding the time didn't seem like a problem. And I've always been up for a challenge.

But there was something important missing: Where was my angst? How on earth was I going to write a compelling novel without a deep, driving need to to write a brutally honest, heartbreaking novel?

I'd already figured out that I wasn't cut out to be a lawyer or an academic, and that my true calling was instead in the arts, from design to photography to writing. So why was I lacking that artsy angst?

The answer was staring me in the face: my parents.

My parents, with their perfect marriage coming up on four decades, raised a completely well-adjusted, happy child. Which is all well and good -- until you discover the child is going to be an artist.

I don't suffer from a single childhood trauma. It's great for falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, but not so great for coming up with characters as awesome as, say, Lisbeth Salander.

But because I'm so boringly well-adjusted, I approached the problem pragmatically:

Even though my parents raised me to lack angst, they also raised me with a tremendous sense of adventure. I got to travel around the world with them from a young age. As cultural anthropologists, that meant a lot of travel compared to most kids I knew. Because of those experiences, in my adult life I lived in 7 cities in 3 countries before settling down with my house in the Bay Area. If the situation presents itself, I'll go anywhere. If a food is offered to me, I'll eat anything (once).

So maybe I'm not cut out to ever write that deep, heartbreaking novel. Instead, I'll go with my strengths, which also happen to be what I love to read most: mysteries with a strong dose of international adventure. L.G.C. came up with a great phrase that captures up what I'm working on right now: An Indian-American pirate treasure hunt adventure.

I won't be holding my breath for any book reviews discussing my deep prose, but I'm having a hell of a lot of fun.


Sophie Littlefield said...

gigi, much as i adore your preternatural serenity and bewitching grace, I believe there is a little angst buried deep down there in *everyone*. :) you are a keen observer, and this world offers angst aplenty! great post, and i love your parents from afar. :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Gigi, if your parents had been so inconsiderate as to have provided you with siblings, you would have angst in spades. More kids would have stressed the 'rents, making them less perfect. You could have fought with the sibs and suffered terrible injustices at their hands, to which your parents would have responded with differential justice, which to a kid would have looked UNFAIR, and, lo: angst enough for a lifetime.

On the other hand, some siblings aren't combative, competitive or just plain selfish. You'd have probably had that kind.:)

Anonymous said...

Your readers are going to have a lot of fun too :)

Gigi Pandian said...

Sophie, even though I see the angst clearly around me, I just don't seem to internalize it!

L.G.C., that's one question I've always been curious about. I do have a childhood best friend who has always been like a sister, but I know it's not the same.

Thanks, Mysti!

Rachael Herron said...

ME TOO! Angst is hard, and I think angst lends directly to plot, another one of my problems. Practicing, though...