Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suffering for our art...

Sometimes, we writers back away from writing difficult scenes. We don’t mean to. We know that good dramatic storytelling involves high stakes conflict, and yet, when we come to write certain scenes, we still back away. I’ve seen it in other writers' work, and thought oh, if only she’d taken us into that moment. I wanted to be there…
Sometimes it just seems too hard. We flinch from the task, because it feels like it’s happening to us, and we don’t want to put ourselves through the pain. But we should.
Yesterday, I made the same mistake. It’s so easy… and I wrote myself into a corner. At the end of the day I was totally stuck. I went outside and cut off dead tree fern fronds (It hasn’t rained here for four months and the whole district is brown and sad, although we’ve now had good rain overnight – yay!). I decided that I needed to ask E how he would behave in the same situation I’d put my hero in.
While he cooked divine salt and pepper prawns (shrimp) using freshly ground Szechwan pepper, (the aroma of it being ground with a mortar and pestle is sensational) I chopped vegies for stir-fry and pitched my problem.
As part of my lead in, I explained that my heroine has just told my hero something shocking, something that makes him very angry and hurts him deeply.
And what had I done next? I'd sent the hero off on a little walk to get his head around it and to calm down.
‘Why did you do that?’ Elliot asked.
‘He needed space,’ I said. ‘Head space. Emotional space. A chance to let all his feelings out and calm down.’
‘Why? Why would he do that on his own?’
Because he’s a gentleman? ‘I don’t know. I just wrote it that way.’
‘But wouldn’t it have been better if he’d let out his feelings in front of the heroine?’
Cue bells ringing in my head.
Of course, he was right.
I couldn’t believe I’d made that mistake. No wonder I’d written myself into a corner, and didn’t know where to go next. Of course they have to have bitter and angry words and tension, and of course they don't go off and have dinner together and have nice chats afterwards. They suffer!!!!!
Just thought I’d pass it on, in case you’ve done something similar recently, or are about to…


Lacey Devlin said...

We are brown and sad! I feel like someone's picked my house up and dumped me somewhere else - it wasn't like this when I was young :P

Great writing advice! Thanks :D

Barbara Hannay said...

It's hard to get used to the lack of rain, isn't it?
Must say we've had some good falls this week. Hope it's raining where you are, too. If not now, very soon.

2paw said...

We are very lucky. I hope. We have had so much rain and everything is green, but now we are all a bit worried that there may be no more rain and the Summer will be dry and hot and ripe for fires.
Glad you had a man handy to give you his POV. Dinner sounds delicious!!!