Someone I know is going through a personal tragedy that has rocked my insides to the point I can't think about it without bursting into tears. The idea of dealing with something like this paralyzes me.
I was talking to a writer friend about it and her response was typically writerish - "Oh my god, you have to incorporate that into your book. You have to go there."
It's great advice. Use that raw emotion and make your reader feel every last gut wrenching sob. And I’m sure all of us have, at some point or another, used personal fears, heartbreak, experiences to push a scene to the next level.
I do it all the time. A character in my WIP is dealing with a situation similar to one I went through and there have been plenty of times that I’ve squirmed having to relive some of those emotions. It would be easier to stop, change the scenario, give my character a break, but then I’d have a far less satisfying book.
But with this situation, I won’t go there. Not can’t … WON’T.
Here's the thing ... I don't believe that if you wish for something hard enough it will happen or if you talk about a dream or fear it will come true. But I also have a teeny, tiny little part that doesn't fully not not believe it.
There are topics that I’m not willing to explore as an author because, to be quite honest, I’m afraid to know what it feels like to deal with it. I don’t want to ever have to know what it feels like, not even through research.
I admire authors who will take those gut-wrenching topics and break your heart at the same time they make you have to keep turning pages.
That's not me. That’s not why I write.
I write because it helps me sort through my thoughts and feelings. I write so that I can release those thoughts and feelings. I write because I enjoy writing. So why release thoughts and feelings I don’t want to sort through? Why write about topics that scare the crap out of me?
“Because it’ll make you a stronger writer.”
“Because it’ll make your stories richer.”
Maybe this makes me a lesser writer or a weaker person, but no. Just no.
As a reader, I choose what books I want to spend what free time I have with. And I’ll put down books that deal with issues I don’t want to read about. That’s not a reflection on the author. I’ve stopped reading some amazing books because I couldn’t go there. There are best-selling authors I steer clear of. Is it a negative reflection on me? Some people would say yes. I disagree.
There’s enough to be scared or unhappy about in this world and we all have our thresholds of where we’re willing to go emotionally.
As a writer, there are topics I keep closed in my heart. I’m afraid to let them out, not because of the complexity of writing those emotions – I can do that – but because of feeling those emotions – I won’t do that.
I will however, syphon the very last drop of emotion I can from the topics I choose to write about. I’ll write about overcoming betrayal and losing your self-identity. I’ll explore the heartbreak of a lost friendship and the turmoil over a decision that will turn your life upside down.
As a writer, I don’t owe my readers to go places I’m not comfortable going. There are plenty of other authors willing to go there instead. I owe my readers the best story I can tell. Those are the emotions I’m going to focus on.
Now I want to hear from you ... are there topics you avoid or do you push yourself to write about those hard to stomach issues?
Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world, where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut, The Distance Home, will be released by Forge on May 2, 2017.