owl in winter

owl in winter

Monday, December 2, 2013

Don't be Modest

As writers, we're all different in the subject matter we choose to splash on a page and I understand that so before I go too far and make anyone uncomfortable, just know that I know and recognize that fact.

Our November speaker at SWG talked about the five plus one things he wished he'd known before he started writing a novel. One of the points he raised stuck out for me because, well, I've been known to get on my soap box about this very concept. He said, "write about something that scares you." Now, he didn't mean the "boo!" kind of scary. He was talking about writing about the dark stuff, delving into the unknown, pushing the envelope. And writing it real.

I maintain that no writer worth their own spit can write without coming up against an uncomfortable subject sooner or later. It's got to happen or there is no story, no tension. Your work will be one-dimensional. I find it similar to painting taupe on an off-white canvas. When you finish your great masterpiece, and stand back, crossing your arms over your chest and gaze upon your beautiful work, what do you see? Blah. But if you slam a bucket of wild red across the canvas, ah, then you've created interest. You've created dimension.

You see, I think we worry too much about what others will think about what we write, and I think this happens often within a writers' group. It's difficult to reveal your words, your inner brain workings, to others. What will they think? Will they think it's dirty or lewd, or twisted somehow? Will they be grossed out? Will it be a reflection on me? We should not be so modest.

I believe a writer must write in the moment. If your character is that person who unluckily became part of a convenience store robbery, and his face is pressed against the cold tile floor, you need to be able show your reader what the floor smelled like (all those rubber soles that went before), the hoarse panting of someone an aisle over (must be old, sounds hoarse, like a smoker's breath), how did it sound when the doors to the cold storage shattered as a bullet jetted through them, does he taste his own blood in his mouth because one of the assailants slammed him to the floor (bitter iron paint, spewing from his jaws)?

There are more controversial subjects; i.e., rape, incest, family violence, terminal illness, divorce, death, mental illness, or murder. Point is, at some point you need to pick one and let yourself write about it. Push the envelope. Write about something scary. Let yourself be free with it.

This is your challenge as we finish 2013 and move into 2014. Write about something that scares you to the bone when you go back and read it. And don't be modest. Do you think Stephen King got to where he is by being modest?

Be honest, write in the moment. Write about something that challenges you.

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