A Letter to One of My Characters: Jake Smith

Dear Jake Smith,

Congrats, dude, you’ve made it three novels with me, and I’ve got a fourth one in the works. I’ve fallen helplessly in love with you, your life, and your story. It’s hard not to. Especially when we’ve weathered so much together.

But let’s cut the applause and put the confetti cannons away.

I know you’re mad at me. Mostly you’re confused. Why do I never stop hurting you? Why do I take so much when you give just as much, if not more?

I don’t know. I wish I could give you a real answer. I wish I had that insight into myself and how this universe works. But it wasn’t like I sat down and instantly realized your entire life. It’s come to me in pieces. It took me almost eight drafts to realize your high school girlfriend sexually assaulted you.

In the beginning, you were supposed to be a fluffy love interest in a fluffy romance novel that was just meant to get me back in the writing saddle. But then in chapter 3 of Breaking Orbit, you told Remy to watch out for Grayson West. You pushed that plot to where it needed to go. You talked me out of my hesitancy and fears. You made me accept I was writing about serious stuff and not just cranking out fluff for the hell of it.

Thank you.

And again, look what we’ve endured (well, you endured and I put on the page): almost ending your friendship with Teagan, being sexually assaulted by your high school girlfriend, a tumultuous tour with a vile celebrity, being attacked with a metal baseball bat, the unexpected death of your mother.

I’ve even given you glimmers of what’s ahead in novel #4. What you face to lose in that story. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. (It feels a bit 5th Harry Potter a la “neither can live while the other survives” foreshadowing, doesn’t it?)

Don’t think I haven’t grieved with you. I have shed many tears on my laptop keyboard telling your story.

I still remember the stomach-knotting anxiety from last fall when I rewrote the ending of Breaking Orbit so that you were beat up. The anxiety-wracked days leading up to it, how long it took to accept that really was part of your journey.

I remember having the epiphany about your sexual assault–you made so much more sense after that–and then accepting that writing Teagan & Jake would mean writing that scene, that moment from your life. I remember waking up early to write that morning before work and typing those words and then spending the rest of the day rather melancholy.

And today, when I wrote Leigh’s flashback to your mother’s funeral. I wept. We wept.

I’m sorry, Jake.

But there is a reason for all this suffering. Not just the cheap “it makes for a great story.” You continue to struggle with understanding your identity, your purpose, your worth in the universe. You both love and hate how tiny and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things.

But you’re significant to me. You have purpose and worth. You are a complex person who I love to explore and am always discovering new memories, quirks, secrets, interests.

I need you.

The thing is, I don’t really know where I’m going in life right now. Remember when you asked Remy if she ever felt like she was becoming a black hole?

He exhaled slowly, rolling onto his back. He stared up at the ceiling. More silence. Just the rise and fall of their chests. Then his voice, soft and distant, said, “Are you ever afraid you’re becoming a black hole?”

“What do you mean?” She turned her head, trying to make out his face in the darkness.

“Like you’re going to cave in on yourself and take other things down with you because you’re never going to live up to who you’re supposed to be?”

Sometimes I feel like I’m becoming a black hole. That I am consuming without ever producing, that I am not contributing to the world as I am meant and wont to do.

I’ve had a really easy life compared to you. Again, you have endured so much. (I’m sorry.) But despite everything terrible that has happened, so much good is in your life. You have been blessed with familial, platonic, and romantic love. They have helped you carry on, and then they’ve cheered you on as your dreams came true. You’re doing the things you’ve been working toward for so many years. Yet, I know, sometimes you still feel like you’re not enough, you’ll never be enough.

Jake, you have always been enough.

You see, who you are is important to so many people. Who you are is important to me. You’re the person who looks like they’ve mastered how to be themselves but feels like they’re failing to be themselves every day. You’re anxious, prone to panic attacks, and often weighed down by your past. But you continue to push on, and you’ve learned to speak up and to keep going despite everything. You’re a love letter to emotional boys, emotional men. You’re a moral compass, a reminder to always pursue what is right, what is true, what is real.

I need to see you suffer and survive. I need to remember I’m a meteorite, not a black hole. I need to remember that when all else fails, to find release and rescue in my passions. I need to remember that everything takes time and an incredible amount of hard work. I need to focus on the good and love in life despite everything terrible that happens and continues to happen.

Thank you for helping me remember all those things.

And thank you for giving me your life, your story. I’m sorry it’s full of so many terrible things. Just know that I love you, I care about you, and we are in this together. You are not alone. You are enough.

 

Your author, your friend, your biggest fan (well, besides Remy & Teagan),

Maggie

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