Inspiration to Story by Jeremy Gottwig
‘Years ago, my wife (a religious historian) told me the story of the Abelard and Heloise. I’m not sure why it came up. Knowing her, it was probably just bouncing around in her mind.
Either you already know the story or you can use Wikipedia, so I’ll spare you my three penny synopsis. I will say that the story of Abelard and Heloise is sad, scandalous, sexy, and a little bit painful. It stuck with me, and years later it inspired my piece, “Who Abandon Themselves”, which is now available in the Hides the Dark Tower anthology.
Being the science fiction junkie that I am, I plucked these characters from Medieval Europe and dropped them onto different planets in a star system very unlike our own. In other words, I was not kind to these characters, but nor was their own time. “Who Abandon Themselves” focuses on a brief, fictional moment near the end of their relationship, but I envisioned a backstory that resembles historical reality. I recommend that you read my story before you dig into the facts. You shouldn’t encounter too many spoilers, but I suspect the story will be more enjoyable if you encounter these characters without context and fill in the details later.
The title of my story, “Who Abandon Themselves”, is taken from a quote by Peter Abelard in one of his letters to Heloise: “The men who abandon themselves to the passions of this miserable life, are compared in Scripture to beasts.”
I love this quote, but I have to be honest: being married to a religious historian doesn’t make me a genius at deciphering religious texts. This quote feels like a moment of raw clarity in the middle of an otherwise unrestrained rambling. I encourage you to seek out the letter in its entirety if you want to see what I mean.
This reminds me of the process of writing and editing stories.
I rewrote the ending to “Who Abandon Themselves” half-a-dozen times. It had stagnated, and my cosmetic changes had little effect. My wife listened to me read and reread the thing after each little tweak. She provided honest (and brutal) feedback. My own moment of clarity came while reconsidering the relationship between my characters. Something clicked, and everything changed. I rewrote the entire ending from scratch. My wife liked it, and I submitted the story to Kelly and Vonnie.
And so I dedicate this story to my wife. She inadvertently gave me the idea, she loaned me her expertise as a historian when I had questions, and she listened to me read and reread the thing until we were both satisfied.”
And here’s where you can find his book, Employee of the Year.
Thanks again to Jeremy Gottwig for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have a fantastical day! – Vonnie