“No Pain, No Gain.” You have heard this attributed to everything, from athletics to Zoology. “Life is pain,” said by Geena Davis’s character in The Long Kiss Goodnight, followed by “Get used to it.” I would add, “Embrace it.” Pain and Gain are two of life’s maxims, and from those truths, surge a writer’s power.
As writers, Pain and Gain are the essence of our lives and our stories. Without pain–obstacles–our characters wallow in a vacuum of normalcy, sameness over and over again. Boring. (See What Makes a Story here). Life does not exist without pain; no one escapes.
Pain of divorce, ache of losing a loved one, the sheer terror of being diagnosed with cancer: all are “gatherings” for the writer, emotions attacking the psyche, the angst causing short, panicked breaths and a befuddled, unfocused mind. Within the painful whirlwind of the writer’s experience, there comes (later, probably) the desire to explain it, analyze it, and ultimately share it by written word. That is our nature, perhaps even our purpose.
Sharing those experiences is also a writer’s greatest therapy.
Experiencing the emotions and events that cause them makes us better people, and better writers, too. People often say they learn more during times of trouble (usually when looking back) than times of smooth sailing. The main thing is, regardless of the emotion you experience, write about it, and use the feelings when inside your character’s skin. Showing the feelings your characters battle is how you pull readers into an intimate relationship with your characters and your story. Emotion is key.
To evoke a reader’s emotion gives me the greatest joy as a writer. Having a reader say “I cried,” or “I laughed,” or even that my words made them ponder a familiar topic in a new light, or reminded them of an event in their past–those things lift my heart. Or when a dear friend of mine said, “I tasted the blood on her lip.” Ah, the blessing.
Lest you think doom and gloom are my nature, wonderful emotions like affection, love, tenderness, and gaiety are equally important for your characters. Those “everything is right” feelings are great emotions for stories, especially right before the hammer slams down.
This Week’s Quote:
Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. ~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957
This Week’s Links: Fun Stuff