“But How Do the Stories Get Inside There?” – What Inspired Me to Write Breaking Point, My 2nd Full Length Novel

All of my writing comes from my personal experiences. I think it’s that way with most writers; somehow, some way, the author shows up in their writing. Read enough of an author’s fiction and you’ll likely be able to discern what type of childhood they had, how they feel about the world around them, and what they hold most dear. All of those aspects will show up time and time again in the theme, the locations, the situations, and the characters found in each of their books.

So, what reality is hidden in the pages of Breaking Point, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you, sort of. I won’t name names, as it’s not that type of blog :-).  I will give you a bit of background as to what was going on in my life when the seeds for this novel were sown.  We’ll start first with what I believe was the official onset of menopause.  Despite having had symptoms since my late twenties, I believe the real deal kicked in January, 2012.  That was the month I lost my sh#$ so to speak in the emotional arena. Up to that point, I’d been able to keep my emotions in check. I could count the number of times I’d cried since I was 12 years old on one hand and full on sobbing (especially where anyone could see me) only took two fingers. I had taken stoicism to whole new level, firmly believing the lines from the song Just the Two of Us (sung by Grover Washington, Jr. ) to heart, “We look for love, no time for tears / Wasted waters’s all that is /And it don’t make no flowers grow”  therefore, no need to waste any water over anything, no matter how badly I felt.

Apparently menopause gives not two f@#$s for how emotionally strong I wanted to appear. EVERYTHING from that January on seemed to kick open the flood gates and send me sobbing for no good reason. I felt emotionally wide open so of course, my Divinity figures it’s a good time to examine our life and process all the previous grievances I’d locked away in the “I don’t want to feel this” vault. I liken it to going insane. It was in that state that I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo 2012. In my search for something to write about, I combed through the archives and came across an idea I’d originally started as a class project for a script writing class I’d had in graduate school in 2011. It was a rough outline for a television series, all about a woman with a few quirks who happens to find love.  I’d loosely modeled my lead character after the mom in the TV series, The Gilmore Girls. I liked her, could relate to her struggles. Anyway, the outline I’d done was for a light-hearted dramady but what I’d ended up pitching to the class was darker; less Family Channel, more Showtime, if you know what I mean. I’d freaked myself out actually as during the pitch, I started talking about a story line involving a serial rapist.  WHAT? How’d that get in there?  I quickly finished my presentation and didn’t look at the idea again.

My Muse however (who just happens to be in cahoots with my Divinity and the other voices in my head) urged me to take that outline out for NaNo. So I did. In my heightened emotional state, I realized where that rapist side story had come from. You see, I’d been date raped by my then boyfriend as a freshmen in college. For whatever reasons, I’d never acknowledged that’s what had happened. I made excuses, blamed myself, and then acted as if it wasn’t that big of a deal. In 2011, he’d found me on social media. I’d accepted his friend requests without second thoughts. I’d talked to him on the phone, met with him for lunch, all the while pretending me waking up in his bed naked and obviously used after a night of binge drinking back when we were in college was just something that happened to me in a long list of abuses (both sexual and emotional) I’d endured in my life up to that point. No wonder the rape story line ‘magically’ appeared during my pitch. My subconscious was having a fit, but I was able to keep up appearances. At least until 2012 rolled around and the hormones let loose the emotional hell hounds.

November 2012 – as I made the connections, not just between the rapist appearing in my story and my actual rapist re-appearing in my life, but with all the abuse I’d endured since I was seven, I snapped – I hit my breaking point. What flowed onto the pages of my NaNo draft was all the pent-up grief, anger, fear, and depression I’d suffered through from the first episode of bullying, to the last ever abusive relationship I’d been in.

Breaking Point is the story of my healing. Fictionalized of course, but cleansing, none-the-less.

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Stats:

  • Draft length – 57,174
  • Original title – A Year in the Life
  • Final length – 67,241 (includes chapter titles)
  • Published – 2013 with the final title, “Breaking Point”.
  • Not sure how the new title came about, just seemed a better fit once the editing / re-writes were done.
  • Favorite scene:

Mike was poised to knock on the door when he heard the unmistakable pop of a small caliber hand gun. He immediately drew his gun, stepped back and attempted to kick the door open. He had to hit it two times full on before the deadbolt gave way and the door flew open.

“Police! Nobody move!”

She stood in the doorway between what he quickly took in to be the dining room and the living room he’d burst into. All he could see was the silhouette of her body, outlined by the light coming through the patio doors. Beyond that he could hear someone moaning. A big monster of a cat ran past his leg and he almost shot himself when he jumped.

“Don’t shoot officer,” she said calmly. “I live here. This man broke into my house and attacked me.”

“Are you hurt at all ma’am? I heard a gun shot? Are you holding a weapon?”

“Yes, I have my gun and I don’t think I’m hurt. Maybe some bruises, but nothing a couple of Advil and a really hot shower won’t fix.”

“Okay. I need for you to drop the gun and back slowly toward me.”

“Not until he’s dead.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Gotta make sure he’s dead first. You know, so he can’t do this to me again. One more shot ought to do it. Right in the head, eh?”

She sounded rational, calm even. But Mike knew better. This chick was C-R-A-Z-Y. Whether it was true crazy or just crazy born of a bad situation, he didn’t know or care. Right now, she was dangerous.

“Yeah, okay. Well, I can’t let that happen ma’am. I’m really going to need for you to drop your weapon and back over here where I can see you better.”

Mike heard the screech of tires on the pavement outside. He took a second to think of the story he was going to have to tell in order to explain why he was here, gun drawn. A crappy situation at best, he needed to wrap this up.

“Okay, look, there’s going to be more police here soon, and in order to keep things from getting ugly, I’m going to need for you to drop the gun, so we can figure out what’s going on okay?” Mike heard footsteps pound up the porch steps, his relief at seeing his best friend walk cautiously through the door, was obvious.

Steve however was not so relieved as he finds Mike standing there, gun out and aimed. Mike is so keyed up, Steve could see Mike’s hands trembling from stress. Just that one glance and Steve knows talking Mike off this particular ledge is going take a monumental amount of effort.

“Mike?”  Steve draws his gun, stepping close enough to Mike so they can talk quietly. “Dude, what the hell is going on? We gotta get you out of here before the cavalry shows up.”

“Look, I can’t get her to drop the gun.”

“Yeah. So, what do you want me to do?”

“Go over there and take it from her.”

“What the fuck bro?”

“No seriously.”

“Dude, you’re fuckin’ nuts man. Did she shoot somebody?”

“Yeah. Can’t tell who though, but it’s a dude. I heard him moaning.”

“This shit is so not happening. For real Mike, let’s just wait for the uniforms to show up.”

“No fuckin’ way. You know those dweebs won’t be here for another thirty minutes. Get the gun and the chick out of my way so I can ID the bastard on the floor.”

“What kind of gun does she have?”

“Not a clue.”

“Uh huh. Do you have any idea how many shots were fired?”

“What difference does it make?”  Mike’s patience was wearing dangerously thin.  Steve was not going to be able to talk him out of leaving.

“It makes a lot of fucking difference to me as I’m the one you want to go over there.  I’m not trying to get shot if that’s alright with you. Shit! I’m not even wearing a vest dude.  Look, we don’t have time for this shit. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“God damnit Steve, I already told you, I’m NOT fucking leaving till we find out if it’s HIM.”

Steve tried one last time to talk Mike into leaving.  “Jesus Mike. We don’t know what the perp looks like, none of the vics were able to see his face. You’re not going to know either way. Let’s just go!”

Mike’s voice shook with unexpected emotion, “Please, Steve. I can’t.  Let this go until I know. Please.”

“Shit. Alright fine.”  Finally directing his attention to the woman, Steve raises his voice, “Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

He turned, gave Mike a quick whisper, “You so fuckin’ owe me.” He shook his head at Mike, holstering his weapon. He trusted Mike implicitly with being able to bring her down should she prove dangerous.

“Ma’am. My name is Steve Baker. I’m a police officer. We’ve got to secure this situation before we can help anyone and that means I’m going to have to relieve you of your weapon. I don’t want anyone to get hurt in that process. May I have your assurance that if I walk toward you, you won’t shoot me or my partner here?”

“Sure. I wouldn’t do that. This mother fucker right here is the only one I want dead.”

Steve stopped moving. He looked back at Mike, who was giving a definite, “I told you she was nuts” look. Steve sighed, resigning himself to seeing things through.

“Okay. Got it. Will you let me take your gun?”

“After I kill this guy? Sure, no problem.”

He turned back toward Mike. They knew each other’s signals, so when Steve gave a quick nod, he and Mike moved in unison toward Caitlyn; Mike covered her in case she turned to fire at Steve while Steve maneuvered to disarm her.

Their sudden motion triggered the perp to jump up and head for the patio door. Caitlyn’s primal scream drowned out Mike’s command for the suspect to stop. Two different gun shots rang out.

Steve managed to grab Caitlyn’s outstretched arm. He wrapped his hand around the slick expanse of her wrist, shocked to register the feel of the blood underneath his hand as he forced her arm upward.

Caitlyn reflectively pulled the trigger, firing her remaining bullets into the ceiling of her dining room.

And, as it is with my writing, my Divinity added Her two cents throughout the story.  Here, She casually talks to me about that whole why I don’t cry-business:

I feel as if I’m running away though, taking the coward’s way out.

Cait, there’s nothing wrong with a major change of scenery. Especially under these circumstances. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a place that holds such traumatic memories.

Yeah, but part of me still feels that if I move, I’m letting them win. I’m admitting I couldn’t handle things.

Caitlyn, you were attacked in your house, a crazy man then broke out the window and later attacked you a couple blocks away. You survived both. I’d say you’ve proven you can handle any situation that comes your way. Why torture yourself with the memory?

Is that what I did by refusing to move the first time?

To some degree, possibly.

Hmmmm. Why would I do that?

Let me ask you this. Why do you feel the need to keep pretending that everything is fine?

You’ve met my parents.

Sure, but nothing in our meetings would indicate,

That I was raised to keep a stiff upper lip?  To keep my emotions in check?

Nope, that’s nothing either of them ever mentioned.

I remember when my grandmother died. My mom’s mom. I don’t remember much about her other than she made the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet. We’d spend most holidays at her house, at least my mom and I would. Dad always had some excuse for not going. I never understood that and any attempts at asking were quickly shut down. Anyway, I was ten when Mimi died. I watched mom go through making the arrangements, then the funeral itself, all without any show of emotion whatsoever. I started to cry at the service and mom snapped at me to pull myself together.

So you weren’t allowed to show your grief?

No. I could grieve, I just wasn’t supposed to cry.

Was she like that in all emotional situations?

Yup. My dad? Not so much. If he was feeling something, you knew it and mom seemed to be okay with him doing it, but me? I had to be strong so I wouldn’t become anyone’s victim.

Is that how your mom put it?

Yup. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about that until now, but yeah. That’s how she’d say it. ‘Don’t let anyone know they’re getting to you. You don’t want to become a victim, or be at their mercy.’  Hmmmm. You know what Doc?

What?

We just had a break through.

I was thinking the same thing.

It started with James and just got worse. I’ve been feeling guilty, as if being victimized was my fault. Like I did something wrong.

Uh huh. But you didn’t, Caitlyn.

I feel like I did. I feel as if I let James abuse me, that I somehow allowed that guy to break in and attack me. By the time Eddie showed up, I was unconsciously feeling as if I deserved whatever he was going to do to me because I’d already let two others hurt me. I’d already become a victim. That wasn’t the behavior of the woman I was raised to be.

Do you think you mom wanted you to be punished?

Probably not.

After talking with both your parents, I’d say most assuredly, your mom would not ever want you to have been harmed in any way.

I feel as if I let her down when it came to James. I was the girl who could handle any situation; turn lemons to lemonade all without breaking a sweat. I should have been able to survive whatever was going on in my marriage, but when it came down to it, I broke.

No Caitlyn, you were abused, then brutally attacked. You bore the brunt of James’ mental illness for more than five years without complaint. You can’t believe your mother expected you to continue on in such a fashion?

No, maybe not. But still, I felt as if I let her down. So of course, after the second attack, I had to pull it together quickly. Show her I could survive, get right back to normal. Same after Eddie.

You know what I’m going to say to that right?

That I need to forgive myself first and foremost if I’m ever going to get better.

Exactly.  You’ve got some work ahead of you for sure, but you aren’t permanently damaged.

So, why’d I end up here?

Well, first off, you lived with a mentally ill husband who eventually tried to kill you through no fault of your own. Instead of seeking any kind of help, emotional or otherwise, you bottled it up,  put on the ‘happy face’, and moved on. Six years later, you became the target of a random bad guy whom you successfully fought off in the house in which you lived. Again, you didn’t seek any help, just repeated what you’d done after James. Granted, you took reasonable steps to avoid having to deal with that type of trauma but unfortunately, there was Eddie, a year later. He flips his wig, much like James, and once again, you find yourself on the receiving end of a crazy person’s actions. You tried to deal with it, and I’m impressed how long you held on, but the bottom line is, your system kicked into survival mode and hit the reset button. To use some current lingo, your body has gone through an internal reboot.

You have such the way with words, Doc.

Yes, I do. And let me use them to continue easing your fears. There has been no permanent psychotic damage; the reboot worked. Your blood chemistry is normal, your reactions are normal. You’ve suffered nothing you won’t mentally recover from. But you have got to do one thing. You have got to start facing and expressing your feelings. All of them. Even the scary ones that had you believing all of this was some form of punishment.

I’m afraid.

I know. But at least you can admit it. That’s a major step.

I don’t like being afraid.

You don’t like most emotions because you can’t control them.

Basically, it’s mom’s fault I have this twisted need to control my emotions.

Wow, Caitlyn there is no need to point fingers; no need for judgment. No, what I’m saying is, you experienced things as a child, with a child’s ability to reason, and established that if you kept up the appearance that everything was well, you’d be rewarded with your mother’s approval. It is natural for kids to develop beliefs early on that later come under fire. Most people as they grow and develop are able to adjust their beliefs and move on. Some just don’t have the same opportunities and either spend their entire lives with certain child like beliefs, or like you, have those beliefs severely tested. Some people don’t develop the tools needed to make necessary adjustments to their beliefs, and consequently end up with all kinds of developmental issues and such. Hence the need for folks like me. Whenever we can, we provide tools that help folks make and understand the changes they need to make thus allowing people to return to normal lives. For folks like James and probably Eddie, the only adjustments we can make are those that allow them to live as close to normal lives as possible. To make them less of a threat to themselves and those around them.

So, what you’re saying is, I’m growing up?

Pretty much. You got kicked into adulthood.

No wonder puberty was such a breeze. I was saving up for my really awkward phase.

 

When it was all written out, bound and ready for sale, I felt as if a major weight had finally been lifted from my shoulders. I’d come face to face with some of the oldest demons in my soul and with the help of my Divinity, I was able to cast them out. It’s that message of survival and healing that I hope radiates from the pages; that anyone reading it who may have their own traumas locked away, that when they read Caitlyn’s story, they are able to hear their own voice of reason leading them to release and healing.

2 thoughts on ““But How Do the Stories Get Inside There?” – What Inspired Me to Write Breaking Point, My 2nd Full Length Novel

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