February 23, 2010

The writing self

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Who you are as a writer and who you are as a person are two completely different things.
My friend Jessica is enrolled a creative writing class. The above is a piece of advice her instructor gave her.

Spot on, teach.

As far as writing advice goes, that's in my top 5.

Separating myself from my writing self is a difficult thing. Reconciling the two is even harder. I've written about this previously in regard to how my characters' choice of language differs from my own.

I love my characters, but I don't get so attached that I can't bear to put them through the wringer. In my mind, they are my creations and as the saying goes - I brought them into this world and I can take them out of it.


Making bad things happen to your characters makes your book interesting. And while I don't condone killing off all of your characters à la a horror movie, trials and tribulations create conflict, and conflict + overcoming conflict = plot.

(For a humanities person, I sure do love making up writing equations.)

But sometimes, in the back of my mind, I feel I am tempting fate by writing terrible things. And I'm not necessarily talking death and destruction here - I'm talking even "smaller" things like a husband cheating on his wife. (Hey, I write fantasy, not horror). 

It isn't that I think if I write it, there might actually be someone out there experiencing it (STRANGER THAN FICTION, anyone?). It's just that I'm afraid if I write something bad, it might actually happen to someone I care about. Quite the ego we writers have, eh? Thinking we have the power to make things happen with our pen?

When I start getting all freaked out, I remind myself that I don't have a magical pen or an enchanted keyboard. My writing is fiction. False reality. Pure entertainment. And just because I write bad things happening to good people doesn't mean I'm a bad person - it means I'm a good writer.

If you have the time, check out this list of Famous Literary Drunks and Addicts. I don't drink and the only things I'm addicted to are books, HP, and Panera, but aren't you glad the tragic writer-type is so yesterday?


What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
And just for fun, what is your addiction (legal, of course)?

6 comments:

Heidi said...

"read". Because I never used to. And I could still write without reading much but funnily enough I only wrote like the few books I had read. All coming of age teenage girl novels. About boarding schools and cliques.

I'm addicted to... Harry potter. Probably.

Abby Stevens said...

Ha ha, I think you are as addicted as me. :D But in a good way.

Abby Stevens said...

Better yet, let's not say 'addicted' - let's say - passionate.

Erik said...

(STRANGER THAN FICTION was great)

Well, I have a healthy (of course) addiction to chocolate, if that counts?

Barry said...

Actually stranger things have happen to people in real life.
You know the saying "Truth is stranger than fiction."
I have written a few interesting things in my drafts.

I mainly drink to pots of coffee in the morning.

Abby Stevens said...

I think chocolate is a lot of people's #1 addiction, Erik! I thought STRANGER THAN FICTION was... strange, but so creative!

Barry - I agree, truth definitely can be stranger than fiction.

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