Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Digging Deeper

I've been thinking recently. (Yes, I know. Veeeery refreshing.)

Anyway. My poking at my dark(ish?) side made me realize something about how I write. I do terrible things to my characters. Horrible, twisted things.

I've let children die. I've made beloved wives cheat on husbands. I've mangled characters' bodies.

But... I don't delve into my own psyche. I don't actually go digging around in my own fears and insecurities when I'm writing.

I guess I've spent so much of my life building walls to hide the weak spots that I forget that they're there. It's a long story as to why, but I've made a habit of acknowledging my faults and fears without exploring them.

I know where and what they are, but I don't go into the whys and how it feels. Instead. I build around and over. I camouflage and distract. I poke at them from a distance.

Fact is, I hate being afraid.

So much so that I made myself forget how.

Maybe that's why I took to doing things that scare me. Yes, it always feels like such an achievement to beat the fear. But now that I think about it, that feeling of fear is something invigorating that I don't experience often.

I just push it down too far.

But not today. As it turns out, one of my characters has some back story that gives him a phobia that I have. It also happened that he would be forced into a situation that would be his worst nightmare. As I wrote the scene, I remembered my own terror. My heart went beating at a dull thud as I described a part of me that I hide from myself.

It hurt a little. It drained me completely. And I think it was worth it. But I'll have to see. Other readers might not see quite as much as I did. So odds are that I'll have to go there again...

Do you ever go delve those deep places to come up with something to write? Am I perhaps the only one that doesn't write from there?


  1. I do try to delve sometimes into those deep places, although I'm still not certain how they come across to the reader. In fact the third novel I wrote was based off my childhood fear, and it was hard to confront it. Still is. It's a bit rare to go into such things for me as a writer, but it happens and I agree I think it is worth it. :)

  2. No you certainly are not. That is why I write books for children rather than grown-ups, I know my limits :0)

  3. I try to delve into those places, although I haven't gone very personal yet. Mostly I've pulled from happy or awkward experiences. Nothing too horrible yet, but I do plan to go there. For some people it just takes time :)

  4. Thinking is a dangerous past time! You were aptly warned watching Beauty & the Beast (if it was the Disney version).

    On a serious note I think I wrote one scene that ended up making me ball and left me not wanting to write for weeks. Then when it came time to look at it again in revisions I felt the tugs but the tissues weren't needed. The writing can be helpful catharsis all on its own.

  5. Great post - reading about writing about emotions actually has some emotion! Hehe. Anyway, I'm with you - I usually write about things that I can imagine, but have no huge uncomfortable ties to myself. But when I do touch on such a subject, it almost sends a shock through my fingertips and I think "Ahhh, do I really want to write about this?" Not sure I'm tough enough.

  6. For me, the characters really dictate where I go in a story. If they are experiencing a situation that strikes close to home, I'm hugely empathetic. And when I can relate to them, the emotion shows up in spades.

  7. My characters always take on my own personal struggles. Sometimes it can be really tough, so I know what you're talking about!

  8. I think what you did was great (even if it was difficult). Even if our characters don't fear/suffer what we do, we have to tap into our experiences to make theirs seem real.

  9. Misha - I love this post! It's set up so well! This – I do terrible things to my characters. Horrible, twisted things. I've let children die. I've made beloved wives cheat on husbands. I've mangled characters' bodies. – is BRILLIANT! And yes, I've gone to very dark places. It's draining and it isn't fun. At all.

  10. This post is fabulous and spot on for what I'm going through in my personal and my writing life at the moment. I've been feeling the need to face fears (silly fears, big fears) and I've done so twice already this week. It's invigorating and liberating. And it scarred the crap out of me!!

    I actually try to write out of this place. I know a lot of people who don't like the dark places and there's nothing wrong with that. The world needs more light. However, I find hope in the dark places, like at the bottom of Pandora's box. Without the darkness, how can we ever appreciate the light?

    Write on!

  11. I've never directly tried to delve into those depths--but I know that some of my dark side comes out in what I write anyway.

    Great post!

  12. Yanking fears and anxiety from the darkness within to write about brings me catharsis. These thoughts and feelings now live on the page and I feel a bit lighter. I no longer have to hold on to them.

  13. Good on you for writing about something that's so close to you and what you still obviously struggle with. That's usually the best kind of writing because its' authentic and you'll be able to put a real voice to it.

    And you'll probably touch people more than you know.

    Keep at it :)

  14. I'm glad you've gotten in touch with some of your darker emotions. Fear is definitely one of those things that most are afraid of. I know I am. The fact that you delved into your own fear as you wrote his is a good thing! I'm sure the readers will be able to feel it too. :)

  15. This post made me think of Stephen King. I know some people must think he's warped or sick or evil to write how he does (I have to admit I've wondered about him myself) but then you read his book On Writing and he's just a normal guy who loves to write and horror is his genre. Great post, Misha!

  16. I think all writers do this. What's more powerful than writing something so intimate as fear?

    I've used my fear of drowning in one book as well as my fear of losing someone I love to near fatal injuries.

    Use them for all they're worth. They're gold.

  17. Thanks for the great post. I'm facing this right now as I try to dig deep for my heroine, to make her more relateable.

    BTW, I'm hosting Roland D Yeomans today, who self-published his book THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS and is sharing his journey with us as well as a four book giveaway!

  18. When I was 16, I had to tell my cousin that her mom and half-brother were killed in a housefire (we were at my house alone and I took the call - this was before cell phones and I couldn't contact her dad, who was out of town and long-divorced from her mom). Now anytime one of my characters dies, I imagine that moment and cry buckets.

    But I also know that our situation was unique and not everyone's response will be the same to that situation - and that she would not appreciate me publishing her what she went through. It's a fine line.

  19. delving deep is a great way to write. And yes it is exhausting, but it's honest.

  20. I definitely pull from my childhood. I have to admit its mostly light-hearted and fun because that's what I mostly experienced. However there were some darker and embarrassing moments that would make for good fodder.

  21. Like KarenG, I immediately thought of Stephen King, and how he taps into not only his own fears but the fears of the collective unconscious. That's why he has such broad appeal.

    I don't think writing has to be therapy. But it has to be honest. If you're avoiding putting your character through something that is organic to the plot, or you skip over an important scene of conflict, you're going to rob you reader, and they won't trust you after that.

  22. Holly Lisle has a writing class called How to Think Sideways. She recommends that students do some brainstorming before they start writing on a few different topics. One of them is 'I Fear...'. Then students use those words to come up with ideas for conflict, bad guys, scary situations, etc.

  23. My dark side is alive and well. I learned more about myself writing this book than I have reading a self help book.

  24. I don't go to the really dark side. But writing about romance, I often find that I have to ask myself tough questions about my beliefs and my own relationship.

    BTW, thanks so much for your support so far. The book will be launching next weekend.

  25. I have written some terrible things (come on, some character are terrible people!) and I stop and think -- I can't believe I'm actually writing this. It's so morbid...

  26. I have found myself delving into those deeper places more and more. I too have had hidden fears which have paralyzed me for most of my life. I have often thought of my writing as a way for me to push past those fears or maybe have my characters face those fears that I try to avoid.

    I am currently working on the third book in my trilogy. I have delved deeper into my views of good and evil, mercy and justice.

    I have a character in my third book who is evil when he is first introduced. He has murdered two children. That turns my stomach when I think of it. But as the story progresses he begins to change little by little until he is something altogether different.

    There are still consequences to be faced as a result of his past crimes. These negative repercussions later affect his son who never really knew much about his father's past. His son looks up to him; the father he knows is kind and caring. So far, these are my favorite characters out of all that I have created for this trilogy.

  27. I don't dig on purpose, it just happens. I hurt my characters, too. We have to or the story will suck. <-- Fact. It's hard to put yourself into that dark place, especially when it's somewhere you try every day of your life to avoid. But that makes the writing stronger, more credible and real. Don't give up! It's so worth it.

  28. Cherie, that is so brave of you! :-)

    Carole, you make a good point. On the other hand, I don't think I'm child safe. ;-P

    Nia I think you have a great idea going. Working your way up to the dark stuff is genius. Wish I thought of it. ;-)

    Schmidty, I think I'll also be able to view that scene from an emotional distance one day soon. There's just something different about writing it. :-)

    Allison, I thought that too when I went digging yesterday. But me being me, I did it anyway. ;-)

    E.C. I know what you mean. In fact, I finally found some common ground with James. Up to now I wasn't even sure if I liked him.

    Elena, that must make for a very interesting writing experience. :-)

    So true, Connie. I think there are cheats though. Like using anger and translating it to another emotion. But I think I will try for the more direct route more often now. :-)

    Samantha, thank you. I agree with you that writing from that place wasn't fun. However, it was rewarding. :-)

    Jen, that is very true. We need to experience terrible things to appreciate all the good that happens after.

    Golden, I know what you mean. In fact, I poured about 70% of my dark side into a MC and my villains. That's a very good way to dispell some stuff. But to directly go digging around is something else entirely. :-)

    Good point Laura. That is why I write about a lot of things as I prepare to face them.

    I hope I do, DUO. :-)

    Hope so, Devin. :-)

    Thanks Karen! I heard that Stephen King writes his story about things that he fears in order to learn how to cope with it. Or at least he used to. Can't imagine that he's quite so afraid of quite so many things. ;-)

    I'll try, Maria. :-)

    Good luck Nas! :-)

    That's terrible, Erica! I can see why something like that would need some fine handling.

    True Lynda. I find I love that honesty.

    Nice, Bish. I think we need to draw from the light stuff as much as the dark. (I tend to go for grey.) ;-)

    Excellent point, Anne. It is incredibly important to stay true to the plot, even if it goes beyond our comfort zones. :-)

    Sari, that is an interesting idea... I'll give it a shot. :-)

    I find that too, Kari. :-D

    Myne, I can see how that could happen. :-)

    Lol Rachel that happens to me too. The worst is, a big part of my mind never registers what I write. So rereading feels as if I never read something before. My mind goes on regular loops when I realize that I did these things to my darlings. :-)

    Sherri, that sounds like a wonderful trilogy. I would love to read it. :-)

    True Elle. We can't do a story without hurting characters and to do that well, I have to keep digging. :-)


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