Nugget of Truth


Games
Games (Photo credit: Ian D)

Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel like all writers talk about is the fun and games we have with writing???  No, seriously.  We talk about how much fun it is to create characters.  We talk about the hard work it takes to go through our stories to tighten them, edit, play.  We hint, we nudge, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty, we shrug it off.

Why do we do that?  I mean, really, what point does it make?  How does it help anyone to make it seem like it’s easy?

Writer’s know that it’s not.  We know that it is draining.  We know that our family has to put up with a lot of crap from us because we pour so much of ourselves into the words on the page.  Frankly, I don’t know how our loved ones do it.

In their honor, I’m going to break a rule.  I’m going to lay it out, tell the world a nugget of truth about writing.

Are you ready?

It’s not all fun and games.  It’s hard work where we are forced to walk dozens of tight ropes dividing us from our family to produce something that we’re happy with.  The problem is, you can’t make us happy, we can’t make ourselves happy.  We’re a miserable lot and we’re nuts!  We put ourselves into situations and positions that end up antagonizing our darkest fears, our past, and horrible dreams of situations that make our perfect little world turn to hell in a nanosecond.

If you think about it, take a look at some of your favorite authors and see if there is a trend in their books.  Some thread that shows their deepest, darkest hell or fear will be shown there.  Let me tell you, Stephen King is brilliant as a writer, but damn, I do not want to go any further in his head than I already do when I read his books.  Still, I get why he does it and I’m sure other writers do too.  They understand that our imagination makes it possible to take all the dark and harsh scenarios in our noggin and put it into a stories.

That’s what makes stories so good and readers stay glued to the page because they want to escape their own lives.  Tweeky made a post about this recently called: Why I’m grateful for the wee on my carpet.  You should read it because it brings to a point a perception of mine about people.  We get too wrapped up in our own worlds to look at the bigger picture.

Oh sure, people watch the news.  They know from a distance the trouble of the world, they beat their fists on their chest as they roar in outrage.  I know people do this, because I do it!  Yep, I’m not immune.  I make no apologies for it, but I do try to limit how aggravated I get because I know that I’m actually quite lucky.  Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

I know, sad, but that’s not the point.  The point is that because of this natural trait of the human race, when we escape into a book, a story, or a movie.  We do it, at least I do, to escape our reality.  You can deny it, but the truth is, writers thrive on it!  We need it, without it what the hell is the point of writing?

Sigh.

However, there is a price.

The technical term for it is conflict.  Without conflict there isn’t a story.  It has to start immediately and is called the inciting incident.  A car crash, a gun in the face, horrible lightening strike, an argument between two brothers, a knock at the door.  Something has to happen to start it all off.  Depending on the story factors into the type of incident it is.  I could quote out examples, but my post is long enough as it is.  As the story progresses, the conflict increases until BOOM, it explodes.

Conflict + characters + suspense = awesome story

We hope.

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

The price of creating these scenes is that we sometimes have to find the one tight rope that sits between safe and a harsh.  Most of the hard scenes don’t cause too much of a problem for readers, but some, when poured out in full glory, can cause a problem.

A list of a few are:

  • Torture
  • Abuse – physical, sexual or both
  • Genocide
  • War

Those are just the first four to pop into my head, but I’m sure there are a few more sensitive topics that writers may find themselves describing.  The price of writing them is two-fold.

The first is to ourselves.  If the piece is pure fiction, nothing taken from a real life experience, the price to ourselves comes in researching the details.  When you look up images about genocide and see the mangled corpses, it stays with you.  When you listen to war stories of veterans from Vietnam, they haunt you.  Some people can shake it off after a while, others can’t.  If we’re taking a sample from our life, we have to revisit it.

The second price is to our readers.  If person A has never been to war reading about it won’t take them back.  If person B has been to war, well, their risk could be higher depending on the level of detail put into the scene.  Whether you’re person A or B, though, reading the full details of a battle with blood and gore, people dying, the impact of a bullet as your buddy gets hit, it opens you to a high probability of seeing the scene.

In short, it’ll be hard to read.  Some readers will put it down and walk away never to return.  Hopefully the rest will keep reading or pick it back up.  Unfortunately, writers can’t know what will happen, forcing ourselves to make a choice.

Be safe, try to limit the possibility of the reader walking away or write it in full detail?

It’s not an easy choice to make.  Each writer must make their own decision.  For myself, I use the story as my guide, the characters, and the situation.  Over the last few days, I found myself in a conversation with a fellow writer about this subject and I expressed my own opinion about our role, our duty as a writer.  During that discussion, I had my rare moment when I stop pretending it is all fun and games.

I took a step back and remembered, this job is hard on us, on our loved ones, and sometimes even on our readers.

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7 thoughts on “Nugget of Truth

  1. Great post! It is good you put the truth out there. Writing can be fun but much of it really is draining! Many things suffer as we write our novels. Thanks for shedding light on the reality of writing.

    • It’s only one piece of truth, but I try. I also try to mask it in humor, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

      For some reason though, this post was hard for me to write, which is unusual. Maybe due to the nature of it.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and replying!

  2. Just caught up with my posts and love how you’ve written this and given us pause to think about the impact of our work on everyone around us including the readers. Thank you for bringing this issue to the fore. I think for me it is the fact that we make such huge decisions by ourselves, and we really do fall on our sword if we take the wrong path! I hope that your sage advice helps others as it did me. 🙂

    • I actually had a hard time writing this. Went through three drafts because I kept trying to put more humor in it, but ultimately found the seriousness of the subject required less.

      You’re right, the decision weighs heavily on us and we try to ignore it. Sometimes though, I find that I have to acknowledge to keep doing it.

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