Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Make your baggage work in your writing

Someone told me yesterday she has outlined her new book. Her plot is worked out and the characters are strong enough to carry the story to a satisfactory close. Her only problem is she's not ready to write. Her life is a mess right now, especially her marital relationship.

While I sympathize with her plight, I had to point out, what better time is there to write? Emotional baggage can make your writing come alive. I am one of the biggest non-confrontational people on the planet. When I was a kid and a schoolyard fight broke out, I got outta there. I never understood the kids who stood around in the circle, cheering on the combatants. Watching violence on TV makes me sick to my stomach.

I have never raised my voice to my parents. Since becoming an adult, the only people who have ever seen me loose my temper is my husband and my son. Don't you feel sorry for them? They know the real me. For everyone else, I display only meekness and a gentle spirit.

But when I'm writing I turn into a powder keg of emotion. Everything I ever wanted to say to my sister-in-law or the woman who cut me off in traffic or the coworker who made an inappropriate sexual comment comes through my characters. Where I am blubbering and slow-to-respond and inarticulate, my characters know exactly the perfect words to say to put this person in their place.

It's great. Not only does it make for good reading, it's loads of fun.

I'm not saying it's easy to focus on creativity when your homelife is in turmoil. When things are a mess at home, it's difficult to look past it and get into your WIP. But as most writers know, writing is very theraputic.

Use the page to catch all those broiling emotions. Change the circumstances of course. Maybe you can translate the trouble you are having with your teenager into a character's survival after a violent crime. The problems with your boss can become a man's struggle with his dying father. It's the emotion--the passion--you want to capture.

Anything goes in fiction. Your heroine can display the strength you've been trained to suppress. Since my first book was published, I am more confident in my dealings with other people. Public speaking has helped bring me out of my shell. But a big part of my transformation is because I have learned a lot about myself. I have something to say and I deserve to be listened to.

The next time you can't make your husband see reason or your wife is oblivious to your needs, translate it to your writing. Turn that passion loose on the page and see what happens.

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