Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Thoughts: Giving Yourself "Permission" to Write What You Really Want To

Last week I had the opportunity to give a writing workshop at my local library. We talked about the romance industry, various sub-genres, my own journey to publication, and then we focused on character development & first meetings between hero/heroine. I asked them to do a brief character chart, fleshing out some questions and qualities about characters in their WIP, and then we discussed them. One of the best parts of the evening came when almost everyone there said something like "Now I know what I need to work on with this" or "I'm inspired to go back and work more on my story now" or "I never knew this about my character before!"

The most interesting part for me, though, was a comment from one woman who was talking about a short story she'd written (not really a romance, as you'll see in a minute). In her story, a man and woman meet on a hiking trail, strike up conversation, and have a relationship that ends up being a few years long. In the end, though, they get into an argument and she throws a microwave at his head and kills him. (!) In rather Alfred Hitchcock fashion, the story ends with her painting her nails and bemoaning the fact that she can't have popcorn because her microwave is broken.

She said, "I really do like the story, but I feel like I can't write everything the way I want to because it's too dark. Too evil. I feel like I can't give myself permission to write this story."

We all immediately latched onto that thought and talked about how often that can happen in writing. We don't feel comfortable writing profanity because we don't speak it. Or we don't feel comfortable writing explicit or kinky sex because it means we are thinking about it (or maybe even doing it behind closed doors!). When we write about acts like murder or infidelity, does it suggest we condone them? Of course not. But I think for many people, we do stumble when it comes to writing about things we don't personally live or accept.


This idea of giving ourselves "permission" to write anything our story calls for needs to exist. In the workshop, I suggested this woman write under a pen name. That way, when she sits down to tackle a dark story, it isn't "her" writing it, but another author. Maybe that will free her. I don't know if that will work, but I think it's worth a shot.



Liz said...

That was great advice. Since I decided to go Indie with mine I went back and toned down the sex (only a little bit - LOL) since I wrote hotter and used those 'buzz' words that I didn't really like.

I flip-flop on a pen name - going to use my own for romance and a pen name for the women's/inspiration books since more people get riled over religion than sex - the only thing that gets them riled up more is politics.

Tara Andrews said...

I know exactly what that feels like. I've had difficulties writing bad guys and making people mean. I'm very conscious of that.

Thanks for the post.

sweberuno said...

You're right; writing something under one's named could easily create a mental block, a mental block developed out of fear being discovered as the author. Sometimes it's job related. Sometimes it might be in regards to another genre in which the author might be highly respected [ie, a children's author who now wants to right a steamy romance}. Both of these two possibilites involve being discovered, and the negative impact it might have on them.

Shoshanna Evers said...

Since I write kinky erotic romance, I sometimes find myself thinking "Oh no, what if my father read that?" and it makes me want to censor myself.

I got around it by making certain family members promise they'd never read my books!

I also write under a pen name, so when I'm being a nurse, an advice columnist, or a mom, there's a separation.

Janet Lane Walters said...

Years ago when I began to write I began with sweet nurse romances, you know the kind with a kiss at the end of the story. The world of publishing has changed and so did I. My charcters became more true to life and until recently I had trouble writing steamy. I learned how to do this. Did I take a pen name? No. When I was toying with that idea years ago, my father said "If you do that it means you're ashamed of what you're writing." I had no fears that discovering my real name would make earning a living hard. So I am who I am and I write what I write.