At one point in our writing we will ask ourselves that question. It comes from the concern that readers will associate what is written with our personality and think that we are it. Some readers will, some will not. That is a chance that the writer will have to weigh, and decide. I think that the work speaks of the writer, however, it does not define him/her.
As writers we decide how far we want to go with our writing, and how true to it we want to be. As an example – If I am writing a murder scene, you bet that I am going to be as descriptive and gross as I can be with the pen to capture the scene and translate it into a visual picture to readers. If I am writing about the killer, I will want to get as deep into his/her psychological persona as I can, to give the character life. Does that make me a psycho or a murderer? I don’t think so. Then, why do we hesitate to write? Out of concern – WWTT? It is the predicament that stops the pen, the mind, the Muse.
Fiction writers have the “peace of mind” (do they?) that readers will take their works as fiction, but sometimes interpretation goes beyond, and the lines become a bit blurred, not so much for the author but for the readers. A latest example of this is the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. A fiction novel that stirred so much controversy and continues to do so with its movie incarnation. I have not read the book but you would have to live under a rock not to know what is going on with it, that is, if you are an active reader or movie lover. J K Rowling had to deal with the witchcraft criticism of her Harry Potter series, and I am sure that you can think of many other examples.
In the end, a writer decides how far to go with the pen, and how important WWTT is to him/her. To be or not to be, that is the question – Shakespeare.
Duty – An act or a course of action that one should or must do. A moral obligation. A task assigned to or demanded of one. – American Heritage Dictionary
Duty is another main theme in my novels. Ramblings of the Spirit may be summarized (thematic) with this line – When destiny must fight to meet love, duty stands in the way.
As the above definition suggests, many times our duty goes beyond a task that is demanded of us, crossing into moral territory, and guided by the weight of our beliefs. It transcends the material into the spiritual, and it is then, when duty is bound by the material but being called into action by a higher or spiritual belief or value system that conflict is born. What a person (or a character) does to solve this internal conflict and find balance (or not) determines not only the course of action, but future events. It is then that true heroes emerge, and the embodiment of duty becomes reality.
Many times, duty and sacrifice go hand in hand; other times, duty goes beyond sacrifice, reaching the realms of an ideal that becomes more important than the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice becomes a vessel, a vehicle to fulfill duty. Understanding how our mind works through these scenarios, while relating it to the material and spiritual perspectives, will help us create more complex characters that become more real and human as the story progresses.
In short, we might have never been in the character’s shoes, but that does not prevent us as writers, to embrace the character’s psyche or transcend into their spiritual realm/value system. As writers, it is our duty.
I hope I didn’t scare you with the title of this post. Almost a month has gone by since I put aside the first draft of The Book of Sharon. The time away is necessary for what comes next – a heartless dissection of it, and I’m ready.
As writers, we pour our heart and soul into our work, then the time comes to forget about it, followed by a cold stare before we are ready to slash it into pieces – heartless and purposely, not an easy thing to do but necessary. From this dismemberment a second draft is assembled. The process goes on until the story is as ready as it can be.
During this time, emotions run wild – from doubt, insecurity, uncertainty, and not wanting to let go, to perfectionism, pride, fear, doubt again, restlessness, exhilaration, incessant questioning … all of it culminating in exhaustion, and all of it necessary. Sounds painful and not too enticing, but it is what writers subject themselves to repeteadly, and beyond scrupulous consideration, and all for the love of the story.
I am as clueless as you are. I don’t know that anyone knows for sure. These days, it is a hit or miss. If you write whatever happens to be selling well, you might have a slight chance of being discovered; however, there is no guarantee, as these times seem to be characterized by fast and furious writing, of aiming a target market and pleasing the publishers. Indies might not try to please the publishers but the readers who crave the craze at the time. Pleasing readers is good; however, not if you are writing something hoping that it sells but your heart is on another place. In that case, you lost your writer.
The other day, I picked up a small paperback, a fantasy/paranormal romance that promised a bit of adventure, just for fun reading; I was in the mood for it. It was from a bestselling author on that genre, who had written many novels, and had won awards. I was truly surprised when (just my opinion) I discovered poor content, weak, poor dialog, and honestly, it needed a decent amount of editing. I continue reading (stunned) but had to skip pages, and eventually, had to put it down. I was puzzled – a best seller, but how? Your guess is my guess.
What makes a bestseller these days? Lots of luck, maybe? Good writing doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. I am an eclectic reader; I enjoy many genres. I have read very good books that are not best sellers. I understand the fever and craze that a genre might cause at a particular moment, but I don’t understand how a poor written story becomes a bestseller. Maybe it is all about sales and hoopla. Your guess is my guess. I would love to hear your experiences (as a reader) on this topic.
Here is a small excerpt from my novel Ramblings of the Spirit, Book 1 of The Dinorah Chronicles.
“I picked up the book again and slowly placed it on my bed. I was not sure if opening it or let it be. I laughed at myself. The impression of the dream was so real in my mind that I thought I felt the book’s heartbeat. I turned to go to the kitchen when I heard a thump. I looked back; the book had opened. This time, I mustered the courage to look at the page. It was the page of the boy and the serpent; however, the image had changed. Now, I was looking at my dream. Spilled all over the ground were human hearts; next to the boy, I saw a key, and next to it a heart with wings that seemed to bleed. I grabbed the loupe from the nightstand to inspect the picture. There were initials printed on the heart – DS. What could it mean? Only one thing came to mind – Dinorah Sandbeck” – Chapter 21 – The Thump of the Bleeding Hearts.
I hope that you enjoyed that little bit; you can sample a little more on Amazon. Here is the official book trailer. I hope that you like it.
Here is a short excerpt from one of the middle chapters – A Message – to give you a little taste.
I heard two sets of footsteps coming upstairs, towards my room. I should have been concerned but I truly didn’t care. I didn’t care if it was human or not. I didn’t care if it was divine or evil. I didn’t care because at that moment, I wanted to be dead. I didn’t want to feel my shredded heart aching, my lungs, depleted of air, my head in a stupor, my skin numbed to any human touch. I felt dead already, my previous existence, gone. I had no fear. Pain was the antidote to any fear.
At one point or another, you may feel as if you cannot write or as if the story is not flowing quite the way it is supposed to flow. You may think that you have been plagued by writer’s block (or artist’s block) and when you try to work on your novel or art, you cannot go back to it, as if something prevents you from it. I have been there and what I found out was that it was not so much of a writer’s block, but more of a conflict with a particular part of the story. It may be a character, beliefs, philosophy, or even a particular scene. Somehow, you have an internal reaction or “a problem” with it. It may be that you do not agree with something that you happen to be writing, but know that you have to write, whether it is to keep the story going, or by mere inspiration. When you feel that you are stuck with the story, take a break and ponder about the last thing you wrote. Take notice of how you feel about it, and if an internal bell rings. This is a sign that you have something to work on (on yourself) before proceeding ahead with the story. The way I see it (and this is only by my experience with this) is that you either,
acknowledge it and ignore it, meaning that you know the bug is there but you will ignore it and keep writing; however, it will come back along the way, impeding total free flow of your writing.
take a short break, acknowledge it, ponder it, and make peace with it. I find that just because I may not agree with something in my story, that does not mean that I am selling out my beliefs. In the case of an internal conflict that one of your characters or scenes brings up, acknowledge it, try to find the link between your conflict and the story, understand it and move on.
The main thing here is that by recognizing that there is an internal conflict you are looking in a mirror, and therefore, are starting to open the flow of your writing once more. The mere act of looking at that reflection in the mirror is going to help unblock your writing. At least for me, it works that way.
Today, as I was getting ready to work on my novel, I could not get myself started. I sat at the desk, opened the file, and soon got distracted with something else. I knew I had to go back to it, but something was not quite right. I felt the urge to go outside and write, pen in hand. I looked outside and the chair was still a bit wet from last night rain, but I went outside anyway. I sat to write. Soon, words started to pour, almost nonstop. In no time, I had a chapter done, as soon as the words stopped pouring in.
I understood that I was ready to write, just not at my desk. Sometimes, just moving to another spot will do the trick to get you started on that page or that chapter. Next time, if you want to get started but somehow don’t seem to connect with your muse, go somewhere else and try it.
Here it is the 100 post of the Writer’s Wisdom series. It has been my joy to write them and I hope that you have enjoyed them too. I chose this topic for this post because we make hundreds of excuses about our writing. Sometimes, we disguise them and call them challenges. We all have real challenges, however when we use excuses as challenges, we hurt ourselves and our work. This applies to writing, but also, to everything in our lives.
Are we using our dated computer as an excuse? Our lack of control over the assignments we take? The book that won’t write itself because the Muse seems to be on strike? Or maybe it is the neighbor that plays loud music and does not let you focus? – (earplugs do exist).
Whatever our challenges are, we should look at them as opportunities to grow in our craft and not as excuses. Whatever our excuses are, we should not dress them in “challenge attire,” but face them instead.
Everyone has challenges, every one of us makes excuses at one point in our lives; it is what we do with them that will hinder or promote our growth.
Ever felt like there is no more inspiration; like the well has run dry and your Muse ran away? Whether you are working on a short story, a novel, a poem, or a blog post, inspiration is right there – in real life. Think of news clips, bits of conversations that leak around you as you go about your daily routine, images of people at a distance that are without sound but rich in gestures and body movement – all that is inspiration, and it is free. Use it, it is there for the taking; it is there to inspire you and make your mind awake, but only when you pay attention and are mindful of your surroundings.
So, when uninspired, open your senses, awake your Muse.