My writing is a walk through a minefield

I AM ALWAYS MY OWN FIRST READER

One piece of advice to writers I’ve always followed is to “Write the book you want to read and that you can’t find.”

I guess as a writer I’m looking for the readers who FEEL the way I feel.

I’m having trouble finding more of them because WE tend to hide our feelings as too intense, too troubling, too deep – and are much less likely to discuss those feelings with other people as we recommend a book.

It is too close.

I am not my characters, and my characters are NOT me.

Because, if anything, there are significant parts of me I’ve consulted when writing all three of the main characters in Pride’s Children PURGATORY, and now Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.

Readers know what it’s like to be inhabited by warring camps, typically portrayed in cartoons by a little angel over one shoulder, and a little devil over the other.

I contain multitudes.

But I AM an actor

The training, and the thinking, and the practice come in very handy when you have to split parts of yourself off for a character – and maintain some distance from your self.

I’m sure you can’t play Macbeth without finding justifications for killing your king.

So, before you go traipsing through one of my scenes, I have to do the hard work of feeling my way from the First Line to the Last Line, so that it is smooth and satisfying for a reader who goes that way but once.

It’s part of what makes me slow.

Adrenaline is hard for my body to process – and all hormones are big parts of the emotional states that accompany their surges through the bloodstreams of humans.

I have to feel more than usual, and have a smaller capacity for recovering from the emotional hormones, than most people.

You have to get very close to emotions to write them.

Yesterday, as research for the next chapter in NETHERWORLD, I had to go through, over and over, a part of life that, as a married woman who just celebrated 45 years with her first and only husband, was very far behind me.

No one knows the future – it could be useful in some cases, but I’m hoping I won’t need what I went through yesterday, because, as all important decisions, it was exhausting!

And I can’t stop writing these sections until I can recreate that on the page, in words, first in myself, and then, with some degree of certainty, in both men and women.

Models in literature

I had myself wondering today how close Margaret Mitchell got to Scarlett O’Hara, or Charlotte Brontë to her Jane.

I’m not sure Mitchell was fond of Scarlett – Scarlett and my Bianca have a lot in common – and Mitchell gave Scarlett no HEA: she prevailed, but her victory was Pyrrhic at best: never being hungry again is pretty low on the hierarchy of needs.

I take some of my examples from Dorothy L. Sayers, who at least left Harriet and Peter happy and married, but made them work very hard for that win: the hard work is, to me, essential to the outcome.

I don’t take shortcuts.

All of this may make more sense when the next book comes out, if you’re one of the clan.

I hope you are.

When this is all over, I’d love to talk about it. Right now I’m too raw.


If you haven’t read PURGATORY, and do so now, you’ll have a much better idea of what I’m talking about – as well as an appreciation for why it took so long. I had to learn to do the writing/feeling connection – and do it in EVERY scene.


Drop a line if you have any idea what I’m saying. It gets lonely out here.


 

11 thoughts on “My writing is a walk through a minefield

  1. marianallen

    My counselor said that writers have all their connections current, so pretty much everything triggers a bunch of other stuff, that that’s why we can know how a ghost feels when it crosses a threshold uninvited because we remember CLEARLY how it feels to get caught doing something we weren’t supposed to. That kind of thing. It’s hard to feel All the Things, and a little bit crazy to court it! 😀

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  2. acflory

    Yes! I may be more pantster than plotter, but I feel my way through as well, for the same reasons. The story is mine first, the /book/ belongs to the reader. And I know about developing multiple personalities too. After spending eight years writing Vokhtah, Innerscape was almost easy because I had human characters to play with. In Vokhtah, I had to /not/ feel various shades of sociopath/psychopath. I cannot tell you how many words I deleted because on re-reading them, I realised I’d given the characters emotional reactions they were incapable of feeling.
    The one nice thing about this virus is that I can immerse myself in different worlds without constantly watching the clock.
    I’m glad your writing is going well, even if it is exhausting. 🙂

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      1. acflory

        Yeah. I can’t start the day without checking in on Dr John, and then one thing leads to another. Trying hard to start writing first thing in the morning while I’m fresh. Not easy.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I can’t – because it takes me HOURS each day to gain control of my body and my mind. It’s the first IMPORTANT thing I do, writing, but I absolutely have to wait for it to be possible.

          I’ve learned to recognize when the body stops fighting me and the mind kicks on – I no longer waster that feeling on one last time-wasting thing. I have to grasp when it happens.

          I wish I could, but I have not figured out how to get the brain up and running, even with everything blocked except the writing environment.

          Very frustrating.

          Sometimes I can blame lack of good sleep, or having had sugar, or too much salt the night before – and sometimes I have no knobs I can tweak. This is my world.

          My character is much younger – and has things under better control. There is a fine line between ill but semi-functional, and ill and dysfunctional. Since mine is a spectrum disease, I have chosen a still devastating level, but not one as bad as mine. The nuances are crucial: otherwise this would be a journal of an illness – and that would bore the tears out of me.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          I did wonder. 😦 I guess I just assumed the level of your debility was the same. I’m amazed that you can write at all. -hugs-

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        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          My life, for the past thirty years, has been survival, not choice. Kary’s path has been somewhat different – but well within the range of the illness: while she’d lost 50% or more of her ability to think and be, by careful pacing and management she can do SOMETHING with what’s left – because she lives alone.

          It will be a problem later, count on it.

          And it puts a crimp in her life, and how the world see her, already.

          But society tends to dismiss the people like her – they only get to be ‘sick’ or ‘disabled’ – and that throws away many babies with the bath water.

          My point precisely when writing this particular story – as you had your reasons for Innerscape.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. acflory

          We draw from a wide source of knowledge and experience, but ultimately, all our characters are seeded with a little of ‘us’, even the villains. 🙂

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