Thursday, May 31, 2012
Write what you know, whether it makes you laugh or cry
I love the scene in “Something’s Gotta Give” where Diana Keeton’s character, Erica Barry, is at her desk, balling her eyes out in the most hysterical, touching way, while pouring her pain into her writing. Erica is most definitely writing what she knows.
And it’s the advice most aspiring writers start out with. It’s simple, yet it’s also involved.
You know what you can imagine, and your imagination can be as vast and infinite as, well, fiction. When I use my imagination, I feel exhilarated, unbound, and free. The limitations of real life can’t stop me because those boundaries don’t exist in my mind.
You also know what you’ve experienced. Bliss and pain, we all know these feelings bone, nerve, and heart deep. You may not write the story of the boy who taught you the anguish of self-doubt, the friend who shocked you with their betrayal, the countless experiences that have shaped the core of who you are, or the secrets you keep out of love for others, but the sting, the shock, and the hurt come back to you when you write a scene that resonates. And maybe you cry at your computer…
And then maybe you laugh. Learning to have a sense of humor about life and its twists and turns can make you fearless in exploring a character’s vulnerabilities, making them more believable.
I haven’t yet written a story that remotely resembles my life, yet now and then I bear the feelings I wouldn’t want to forget while I laugh and cry at my computer.