Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 264 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis


There's a real difference to this one. It starts with a simple enough premise. When you think about it, do you end up writing scared? Or are you scared about writing?
Think about it for a moment. Do you sit down to write about things that you normally wouldn't open up to? In your stories, or poetry, or the ideas you explore in essays, do you confront emotions and issues that are raw areas in your heart and mind? Do you ever look for that sympathetic notion in your antagonists? Do you ever explore those places where you might be considered a failure to your family, community, or humanity in general?
When you find those places, do you ever say to yourself, "No one wants to hear about that. It's too open. Too primal." Or do you, instead, think, "I've never seen this take on these feelings. Let's see where they go!"
If the first thought is your path, then you are giving in to your fear about saying what you feel. This can be true in your honest portrayal of emotions you harbor in yourself, or being able to find that empathetic necessity, that true understanding, of even the characters you want your readers to despise. It can come from any number of directions. The fear of exposing your own deepest wants, needs, fears, and hatreds because you don't want others to know those things about you. Or the worry that, if you are overly empathetic with the evil in a story, it may be misconstrued to be your own emotions coming through.
This leads to stunted and anemic portrayals and plots. It is the weakness in our heroes, and their ability to overcome it, that makes them human, and therefore reachable and real. It is that kindness or sensitivity in our villains that sucks us in and has us trying to understand why they are the way they are. Think of Hannibal Lechter's sharp mind, his artistic talents, his love of fine (and not so fine) foods. Were he only presented as the evil cannibal without this backdrop, why would we care?
If you write scared, you are opening up a pantheon of color and texture in your work. You are providing your readers with an enormous palette from which they can fill in the blanks. Many of these you won't have thought of and will wonder how anyone got to that point with what you gave them.
That's the true beauty of taking on and using those things we find in the dark corners of our psyche. The raw nerve we expose in ourselves becomes the same one in a reader. The fear we invoke in an antagonist by making him a little bit like the strange guy we see in the park or out in the warehouse at work, transfers to the emotions of the audience - sometimes with devastating impact.
I've used the analogy of ice skating in earlier blogs. We all can be entertained by the figures cut across the smooth, translucent surface of a pond or rink. But it is when we are taken to the dark depths where a body floats just above the bottom, or an otherwise unimaginable horror lurks waiting, that we we stop being JUST entertained. We are drawn in! Why? Because the writer has tapped into our fears and dreads. They have found the doorway into that room where we hide our daily anxieties, that place where the thing under the bed still lives.
It is by unearthing and utilizing these emotional triggers that we create memorable stories, not just another forgettable tale in a prolonged and predictable series. I know, agents and publishers like to know you have more than one book in you. But why does it have to be the same damned book? By breaking new ground and giving yourself permission to write out there on the edge, you can find ever broader and seductive horizons to tempt your audience.
Bradbury, King, Clavell, Wolfe. All big names in the literary world. All of them capable of bridging the fictitious worlds they created with our very real emotions and feelings. All of them more than able to bring their insight and the postulated feelings of their characters into our very real understanding.
So, are you writing scared, or scared of writing?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write. Occasionally in the deep end of the pool. Sink or swim time, kiddies.
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Dane F. Baylis

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