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.


  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.

  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!?!

  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!