On Monday, Anne Rice suggested we "go where the pain is," in our writing.
Are you like me? Did you lift your head from your nail-painting/paper-clip-sorting/whatever-it-is-you-do-in-a YouTube-watching-moment and ask:
"What pain?" I know, for some of you the pain is big and immediate and sits right there on top, and you may or may not be ready to write about it yet.
But others of us may have submerged a few things, so we can get through the day. But what if now, for the sake of writing in a voice that's yours alone, you want to dig them up? Where do you look?
I have some thoughts.
I recently read Catcher In the Rye, because I wanted to watch Salinger, the film Bonnie talked about a few weeks back. It just seemed right to read his book before I watched the film.
It's a good book, and very subtle, and strangely transparent in it's subtleties. Salinger was a master at telling it slant. The plot takes form between the lines. The main character, Holden Caulfield, repeats certain phrases like nervous ticks, and each time he says them, each instance, is like a little signpost. The signs may not be in a language you understand, not at first.
But soon enough you get that they mean something, and you start to pay attention, and they start to tell you what you need to know about Holden Caulfield.
Phrases like, "I can't stand it," "I hate it," "Boy, do I hate it."
Phrases like, "If you want to know the truth," "It really does," "I really do."
Here's how this connects to finding your pain:
Next time you sit down to write, play with those phrases. Start with "I can't stand it when..." and finish the sentence as many times and as many ways as you like.
Play with the others. What is it you hate, boy do you hate? Your reader does want to know the truth. What comes before "I really do," or "It really does," for you?
Make up a good character, and let your answers shape him.
Then, read the following paragraph:
"I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."
Now ask your character what he sees, what she would really like to be, crazy or not.
Oh, and one last thing, for no other reason than I want you to notice: Read the last paragraph of Catcher In the Rye, and ask yourself:
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Praise for Novel Matters Authors
Lying on Sunday: "Sharon has created a character so vivid and real you'll feel as though you've stepped into Abbie Torrington's life. You don't want to miss this beautiful story of healing and grace" Virginia Smith, author of Age Before Beauty.
The Feast of Saint Bertie: "A story-feast from the get-go! The Feast of Saint Bertie is a surprising, engaging, unique story that will challenge readers to rethink what it means to be a Christ-follower in today's crazy, materialistic culture. With vivid characters, unconventional settings, and a beautifully unfolding plot, this book is the kind that will stay with you, like the fond memory of a great meal."~Mary E. DeMuth, author of Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions.
Talking to the Dead: “It isn’t often that I get so hooked on the characters and story that I forget time and purpose. Talking to the Dead caught hold of my heart from page one. It takes a gifted and intuitive writer like Bonnie to bring humor into the middle of such a serious story. Call her the Jodi Piccoult of Christian fiction! Beautifully done! I can’t wait to read the next story she writes.” ~Francine Rivers, bestselling author of Redeeming Love
Latter Day Cipher: "Latter-Day Cipher involves the reader not only in a page-turning murder mystery, but also in the struggles of those who must face their own shaken beliefs. A former faithful Mormon, author Scott is sympathetic to those struggles, and attempts to look compassionately at the process of making the hard decision to change."—Sandra Furlong Christian Retailing (Latter Day Cipher is a "top pick" March 2009)
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon: "An unusual plotline and top-notch prose mark this talented novelist’s debut...competent dialogue, touches of humor, and sparkling character dynamics make this a welcome addition to the faith fiction fold." --Publishers Weekly
The Queen of Sleepy Eye: “Few stories are able to portray both the crushing cost of sin and the transforming power of grace. The Queen of Sleepy Eye succeeds brilliantly. Patti Hill crafts each word with beauty and artistry.” Sharon Hinck, author of Stepping into Sunlight