Monday, November 7, 2011

Uncovering Your Purpose

A few months ago I was reworking the beginning of my WIP, which features a series of extremely violent scenes that traumatize my main character.  Let's just say there's torture involved, the main character is forced to do things she doesn't want to do, and a lot of innocent people die. 

As I was working on one of these scenes, I eventually got to a point where I stopped typing, glared at the screen and said, "Why am I writing this?!" 

I was absolutely disconcerted by all the blood, beheadings, and general pain I was putting on the page.  I was kind of sick of it, actually.  I found myself asking a lot of questions: 

1.  Why am I writing this? 
2.  Why would I put my poor character in this situation? 
3.  Is this just gratuitous? 
4.  Am I trying to shock people into being interested in my story? 
5.  Is there a good reason for this to happen in my story? 
6.  Why am I writing this? 
7.  Is there something wrong with me? 
8.  Am I trying to compensate for something in my story by including this violence? 
9.  Why am I writing this? 
10.  Is this violence necessary? 
11.  Why am I writing this?  

I thought deeply about these questions.  I considered taking the character out entirely, writing a different story, taking out all the bad things that happened to her, or simply glossing over it. 

But then it hit me:  There was a reason why I was writing that story.  There was  a reason why I was writing about a girl who had the teenage years of her life taken from her in a violent and painful manner. 

I was writing--in a very, very, very, VERRRRRY indirect way--about myself.  About some of my own experiences that never quite left me. 

And even though (I would like to emphasize this.) I could hardly be farther removed from a girl who sees that much violence in her teenage years, I do have something to say about it.  I do have something to say about people who will never be able to say the young years of their life were their best years. 

Once I knew why I was writing what I was writing, and once I knew why it mattered to me, I understood the story so much better. 

And I didn't doubt myself so much--which is a good thing too.

3 comments:

  1. If you don't ask these questions now, an agent or a reader will. And this is true not just of the uncomfortable scenes, but the "nice" ones too. Each scene must justify its place in your novel, otherwise let it go.

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  2. interesting questions. Going to be doing NaNoWriMo and I am sure those questions will be running through my head... Why am I doing this to myself!?!

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  3. @Colin: Ahhh good points!

    @Kate: I've never actually done NaNoWriMo, but I'm sure such a challenge does make you question. I hope you find some compelling reasons to stick with it this year!

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