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.