Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writing The Hard Stuff

'I want hard stories, I demand them from myself. Hard stories are worth the difficulty. It seems to me the only way I have forgiven anything, understood anything, is through that process of opening up to my own terror and pain and re-examining it, re-creating it in the story, and making it something different, making it meaningful - even if the meaning is only in the act of the telling.'

This is a quote that I found in the book 'Writing Fiction, A Guide To Narrative Craft' by Janet Burroway. As soon as I read it, I knew it held truth for me. I've been wrestling lately with some elements of my story this week, trying to add depth to my characters and make them more real. There's been a niggling thought in my mind about adding a storyline that actually happened to me; something traumatic, that I've worked through in my own life, but still, it's there, with all its remembered pain and sadness. However, I kept pushing it aside because, frankly, the very idea of bringing this element into my story, and into my protagonist's life, scared the hell out of me. But it wouldn't let me go, and I knew after about a week of fighting with it, that it must be right.

Then I read that quote, and I knew. But did I have the courage to do it? To write out of my own pain, to put it on the page?

Finally, one day last week, I forced myself to sit at the computer and not get up till it was down in black and white. The memories it brought back were difficult, but also not as hard as I thought. The act of writing it down felt....good. Right. And I know that my story is better because of it.

And, yes, like Dorothy said, hard stories are worth the difficulty.

What do you think? Have you found that writing about the hard times in your life, the scary stuff, has helped you? Has it made you a better writer?