Goodbye Charlie Marco. Bless you Aunt Tess. At last I am able to let you go, to discharge you to memory, to leave you to that great graveyard of the writer’s mind.
Charlie, Tess, Orrin Mayfield, Lisa Bender, Bird the waitress, Harry Droll and so many others are, or were, stirrings of my imagination, characters created for stories that never made it into print, or who were cut or altered past recognition during the revision process. They are people of my past, like ancestors I met as a child and never forgot, and who have maintained a haunting presence in my psyche, chanting the words “unfinished,” “unresolved” to me in my sleep.
For a long time I wanted to do them justice, to rework and revise their stories until they were able to live on their own, in some enlightened literary journal or best-selling novel. But it never happened, and as I mature (I hope) as a writer, I have learned the chances of these people seeing print are miniscule.
But now they have a place to go. Benjamin Percy, writing in the current Poets & Writers magazine, mentioned that one of the ways he deals with revision is to file his excised characters and segments in a writing “cemetery.” He wrote: “For some reason, having a cemetery makes it easier to cut, to kill. Perhaps it’s because I know the writing isn’t lost—it has a place—and I can always return to the freshly shoveled grave and perform a voodoo ceremony.”
What a wonderful idea. A place for all the people and passages that have been cut. I had always stored them in folders labeled “rejects” or “old versions.” This is better. Now they will have something of an afterlife (although they never really had a life, at least not one anyone but me knows about). But who knows—perhaps someday when the writing technology exists in my head, I’ll be able to resurrect them, rebuild them, cure their ills and see them walk on their own in the sunshine of the printed word.
For now, though, the writing cemetery is a crowded place, filled with the corpses of unfulfilled characters and disembodied paragraphs. At least now they will be remembered not as time wasted, but as an important part of my personal literary history.