Saturday, August 17, 2019

Parting From Our Characters Is Such Sweet Sorrow

by Emme Gannon @GannonEmme

In Shakespeare’s illustrious play, Romeo and Juliet, he pens these words as Juliet bids goodbye to her lover Romeo, “Sweet, so would I, yet I should kill thee with much cherishing. Good night. Good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Juliet’s iconic line shows that parting hurts so much, it actually intensifies her feelings for her beloved, for she knows that when she sees him again, her love for him will be even deeper. To enjoy the taste of food, one must hunger. To be really happy, one must experience deep sadness. Such is the premise of Juliet’s declaration.

I can somewhat relate. After completing my first novel, I experienced a keen sense of sadness at my characters’s departure from my life. As their stories collided with my own, we forged a relationship that had deep abiding roots. The hours, days, months, and years we toiled, cried, grew, learned, and rejoiced together unearthed truths in us that would follow us all our days. Except I am real and they are not. Or are they? 

While my characters were not bound in a body of flesh, they do have a soul. They think, they feel, and they filled my world with theirs. Finally saying goodbye was both exhilarating (my story had finally climaxed) and sad. Their presence would no longer illuminate my day.  But, change my world? My perspective? Yes.

The first time I had such an experience with reading fiction was in 1990 when my husband presented me with The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. The novel showcased the connection between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers, and had the ability to penetrate deep into my own insecurities. Many of Ms. Pilcher’s characters were wrought with greed and egotism, contrasted by their wise and loving mother who only wanted a little of their time. Each emotional scene had ripples that followed into the next, drawing me into a story world that challenged me to introspection.

After many days of marathon reading, I completed the 530-page novel, amazed at what I had discovered about myself through Ms. Pilcher’s story of Penelope, an aged mother who desired that her adult children journey with her to her childhood home by the sea—a place that held memories of joy and where love blossomed and tragedy had yet to occur. It was only through Penelope’s emerging friendship with her young handyman and his girlfriend that she was able to make the trip that allowed her to recapture the past, if only briefly. It was two stranger’s kind hearts that responded where her children would not.

Each of Ms. Pilcher’s characters were blatant in their flaws. My internal condemnation of them persisted throughout the read. Until the end, when I closed the book and pondered how their adherence to philosophies contrary to the consecrated life in Jesus became the catalyst that sealed their fate. I also realized that I could see a little of myself in each of them. A shocker to be sure.

Fiction can be a force in our lives that prompts self-examination from which comes self-correction. As characters jump from the pages, their stories always evoke an emotional response to the reader. Penelope’s journey for me was like a retreat far from my world where her story was able to permeate a place in my life—a dashed hope that had been buried but revealed through story. 

The written word has the power to burrow deep into our psyche and change perspective. We have the ability to love deeper, forgive more easily, and let go of besetting fears that had unknowingly plagued us. When we have read or written that last page and closed the book, we can say with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” knowing also that we are better for having been in their world.

Parting From Our Characters Is Such Sweet Sorrow - @GannonEmme on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Emme Gannon is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write stories that stir the heart. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Focus on the Family magazine, several anthologies, and numerous newsletters. She just completed her first novel.


  1. Isn't it amazing how a well-written book can bring us to ourselves Ms. Emme. Whether fiction or nonfiction, some of my favorites have caused me to reflect upon myself as I looked at the characters or scenes in a book. I think this is the greatest joy in writing, to one day have our words "move" people. Just as yours did here. God's blessings ma'am.

    1. So true, J.D. The greatest joy in writing and reading. Your comments are always encouraging. Blessings to you and your writing.

  2. The Shell Seekers is my favorite novel. I still have my copy and intend to reread it some day--maybe when I'm 90 years old.

  3. I've read The Shell Seekers so many times, my husband bought me a hard cover copy. I suppose it's time for another read Blessings to you.