Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gimme A Sledgehammer!

Depending on whether or not you stalk me on Facebook and Twitter, you might be aware that I'm up to my eyeballs in a new story. (Yes, I'm avoiding the Gargantuan Novel Re-Write for another Phantom fic! Sue me, OK?) I take a sick pleasure in putting the characters in situations I've never seen other writers put them in, and indeed the only incentive I need to go for it is the fact that other writers won't do it. So far, I've stuck Erik in therapy, beaten him to death, had Raoul shoot him, made him kill Raoul and Christine, made Christine kill herself, and took a trip into Christine's head to examine her motives. But I have NEVER seen the story that takes this turn I'm about to. NEVER. I've seen one that comes pretty damn close to it, but never really went after it. So...cue the incentive.

My problem? It's a hell of a lot harder than you'd think to take a character you love so much and make them go completely berserk, and when it's a character millions of other people know and love it makes it that much harder. The temptation is to draw back and shy away from the intended goal, if not to just drop the whole thing like a hot potato. There's only one way I'm going to get away with this one, and that's if the writing itself totally effing delivers.

Here's where it gets really hard. To create your best work, you have to dig in deep, then go even deeper. I think the way Ernest Hemingway put it was "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed." Well, that's putting it rather mildly, but that's the sum of it. To move someone else, you have to get to what moves you first. This piece calls for a LOT of rage and fear and resentment and despair and agony and a whole lot of other things no sane person wants to get within shouting distance of. And I have to go there. I have to reach back into the dark corners of my mind and haul those monsters out into the light of day.

What's my point, you ask? I have to tear down the walls around what I've kept locked up for years and shed some light on those dark corners. It's a terrifying prospect, and in the two weeks I've been working on this story I've felt close to the worst I've ever felt in my life, dwelling on things I've nearly driven myself crazy trying to forget. I'm not just doing this for the sake of the story, though. The story was only the catalyst. The driving motive now is the need to overcome the fears and memories that have given me hell.

But of course, it's not easy. Thank God for an amazing beta reader who put me back on track when she saw me starting to flinch! After having my eyes opened, I spent some time with my mental drill sergeant going over the rules of engagement and there was a whole lot of attitude flying around. If you've ever taken a look at Chuck Wendig's blog before, you'll see what I mean. I put on the appropriate music to get into the mood, yelled at myself a bit more to get all fired up, then went for it. It was draining to the extreme, but purifying.

Which goes to show, writing is therapy!

My summary for this little lecture is as follows.

  • Sometimes you have to take risks no one else will, no matter how scary
  • When you're willing to take that risk, it's even more important to go into it with colors flying
  • Before you can even think of making a reader feel something, you have to feel it yourself. If you can't handle that, you have no business writing.
  • The hardest part, but also the most rewarding, is the struggle to face your demons and bring life to the page, conquering that part of yourself in the process.
  • When in doubt, call in the A-Team. Get a beta! Pick yourself up off the floor and get back in the game! Whatever you gotta do, do it!
Assuming, of course, you don't mind being lectured by a stranger over the internet, and are willing to take the advice of a well-meaning, obsessive-compulsive amateur...

Your pal,

1 comment:

  1. (Sweetly Intoxicated) go girl and just be sure to leave the anger and anguish with the story! Your advise from a amateur.


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