Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opening a Vein

(Thanks to Shea McLeod's blog--more specifically the quote--to supplying the theme for this post.)

I've always been one of those people who's on the fence about therapy. Do I believe it works? Absolutely. Do I believe it would work for me? Not real sure. I tend to face most of my problems, and so I don't think sitting in a comfy chair or laying on an uncomfortable couch in a darkened room while someone nods their head sympathetically would really do me a lot of good. That's what I have friends for, to ramble and pick things apart and obsess and so on and so forth.

That's not to say that some things don't come spilling out on paper. Oh, I haven't gone through half the things my characters have gone through--my life just doesn't have that level of drama. But their reactions, their feelings--a good deal of that does come from me, my past experiences, my own feelings.

I have a bad habit of talking about my characters like their real people. My best friends and fellow writers know and understand, and even though the conversations can get a little crazy when I start going off on a rabbit chase, they're still easy to follow. When I was bringing them up to speed, I got to one particular part in the latest chapter. And even though they're very different people, and they received the info at different times, their reaction was the same--"That's a little harsh."

To get all of you on the same, haha, page, the main character, Cari, has had her parents murdered, has flashbacked to the night she miscarried what would turn out to be her only child, has found out the town secret (and boy, is it a doozy), and come face to face with her parents' murderer. Our girl is having a rough 24 hours. Her ex-husband, Mike, has just dropped another bombshell on her. I'll just post the "harsh" part directly.

“Fuck you.” It probably would have come out better if I wasn’t a half second away from full out sobbing. “I’ve loved you since I was sixteen. Sixteen. I’ve never regretted it, until now.”
(Forgive the formatting)

Now, they didn't object to the language--if they did they wouldn't be friends with me because I curse like a sailor. No, they thought her declaration of regret was harsh. They didn't really have a reason behind it, just the thought that it was harsh. Which was interesting to me, because both of them are---let's call them volatile. One of them has thrown a hair dryer at an ex-boyfriend. The other had a five minute rule--if she called her boyfriend and he didn't answer, he had five minutes to call back. Or it would be ugly.

Me? I didn't think she was harsh enough. I'm not one for violence, but I would definitely be looking for something to cause some lasting physical damage. But since they both had the same reaction, I had to step back and think--was I, as the writer (in theory, the one in control) being too harsh?

This is the point where that nifty title comes into play, and the therapy talk. As writers, we're given the most amazing gift, the ability to tell a story. But it comes with a price, at least for most of us. I'm sure there are some writers who can tell a story without pulling out pieces of themselves--I'm not one of them. When I write a scene full of emotional turmoil, it's not just emotional for my characters, but for me. If I'm not moved by what I write, how can I expect other people to be moved?

Writing is like opening a vein. Like letting little drops of blood hit the page. It's messy, and exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. It's self-discovery, and discovery of human nature, and if that's not therapy at it's most basic level, I don't know what is.

But even if it's not, it's a helluva lot cheaper than therapy. And I didn't have to lay on any weird leather couches.

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