The ‘writing a difficult scene’ part
One of my characters is dealing with a punch in the stomach, at first in the character’s own mind, not in a scene with other people.
I don’t want to blunt the effect it has on him/her, paradoxically, by putting too much of a reaction into his/her first attempt to deal with things: I want it pure and simple and visceral and real, exactly how it would hit ME.
The ‘punch’ is in the form of a short piece of particularly nasty work (which I have written out and made as mean as possible), and my question for my character was: how do I feel immediately after I read the piece?
Now the ‘rude person thanks’ part
In an online writer’s blog where input was specifically requested by the blogger yesterday, I wrote a short and, I thought, coherent answer to the blogger’s question, expressing my own opinion and labeling it so.
When I went back to the blog later to see how others might have commented, I found that my comment had been tromped by the next commenter. Without linking or paraphrasing, let’s just say that I felt almost physically attacked by how this person said, ‘You’re wrong,’ and dismissed me, my opinion, and that of other people I normally commune with online.
With nastiness and snark.
I got THAT feeling: ‘you are not important enough for me not to crush you because you’re stupid and not worth anything and your opinions are wrong and you’re stupid.’
And I couldn’t even go back to look at it! For the rest of the day! Maybe forever. [Note to self: do NOT read reviews when I publish.]
I’m not used to being kicked in the teeth.
I’M AN IMPORTANT PERSON! YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO ME! went my wounded self. (Everyone’s important, and the behavior is what we call trolling.)
There was no need for this twit to be rude. Dave Hingsburger, an amazing Canadian blogger who happens to be disabled, fat, and gay, talks about that kind of person all the time: people who talk about and treat other people as automatically less valuable than they are (for many reasons including intellectual disability, gender identification, ethnicity – you name it), and insist the inferior people should shut up and not speak when their betters are around.
I stay mostly on sites with intelligent bloggers and communities of reasonably well-behaved commenters who express their opinions without personal attacks on others. I didn’t expect to be ambushed – I DID consider that some people might object to my opinion.
Writers must be vulnerable, professionally
Writers wear their feelings on the OUTSIDE. Like a child born with its heart outside its ribcage, our heart is unprotected. Vulnerable. Easily accessed by anyone who cares to try.
We wear protective clothing: the biting riposte, the well-timed rejoinder, the perfect putdown – the unleashed venom we are capable of is well-trained. We can use words to hurt. Deliberately. Like the mother of that child, we have a persona that is fiercely protective of our unguarded organ.
BOTH are necessary to a writer. You must be able to HURT, and BE HURT. Because you have to explain it all to people who are being hurt and who are hurting others (though these last may not yet have the capacity to listen, possibly like the rude person in my title).
This is one of the more important reasons for fiction: to show the damaged human that there is life after pain.
Which is why humans are wired to love stories about heroes (our protectors from pain) and underdogs (who win in the end against the pain).
To be alive is to be in pain, at least part of the time.
We learn to survive the pain, to use the pain, to learn from the pain. If we are diligent and lucky (or blessed), to be happy in SPITE of the pain.
But a writer welcomes the pain (not SEEKS the pain, you understand?) because it is the source of our common humanity, the raw material of life, that which we transmogrify and share with our eventual readers.
So thank you, rude person, for giving me a kick in the stomach. You may go to hell for it – not my problem – but my scene is visceral and immediate and powerful because you kicked me and I am a writer.