It has been said that we should write about the things we know. Why? Our works will then come across as credible, authoritative. In other words, our readers will believe that what we say is probable . . . or at least possible. This is as true in fiction as it is in nonfiction. As an editor, I’ve worked with writers to “fix” impossible situations such as fight scenes, escapes, time frames, and a host of others that couldn’t happen unless at least one of the characters is a clone of Superman.
How can we translate “what we know” into a great storyline? And what will make our experiences interesting, believable, and perhaps even helpful to others? Honesty. Emotions. Heart. Many of our experiences may have been stressful—even painful—and more than a few of them may still be lurking deep within us. Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, a book by Karol K. Truman, addresses the effects that repressed feelings can have on our physical health and our general well-being. Well, guess what! We writers have a built-in relief valve for our feelings—good, bad, or indifferent—if only we will open it up and let them flow.
Journaling has been recommended for people who need to vent their feelings. But for those with a penchant for book writing, that flow can take a circuitous route through the characters in our stories. Have we experienced the death of a loved one? a marriage turned sour? estrangement from parents, children, or siblings? loss of a dear friend? financial reversal? termination of employment? a forced change in lifestyle? an unwanted move? miscarriage of a longed-for baby? a lost love? These are the threads that weave the fabric of our lives. They are also the threads that weave the lives of others—our readers.
When we first tap into these feelings hidden inside us and begin to write, our anger may erupt like a long-dormant volcano that spews molten lava from deep within its churning bowels. But as we self-edit, rewrite, and rewrite again, we shape and tweak our anger, our pain, our anguish to fit our stories and our characters. With what result? Our readers are often affected by the intensity of our writing, the authenticity of our emotions, our ability to reach out and touch their hearts. Our stories ring true because—no matter how we’ve changed them—they essentially are true. And as a bonus, something special happens for us. The festering wound that ruptured and burst forth from our innards begins to heal. We can stand back and look at our pain through the eyes of our character(s), and as they find resolution, we can also.
Have you ever dealt with a difficult or painful issue through your characters? If you have, and if you are comfortable doing so, will you share some aspect of that experience with us?
Linda Lane is a writer/editor/publisher. You can visit her Web site at http://www.denvereditor.com/