[This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Kingdom Pen Magazine]
Forget & Not Slow Down
No, this isn’t an article about Reliant K’s song by the same name. Borrowing from their title, however, forget and don’t slow down.
How does this apply to writing?
Well, it falls under something I’ve been learning about recently: acceptance.
In my current novel, my main character is an artist. She wants to go to art school. That is her dream. I thought her price to accomplish the story-goal would be losing her hearing, but kept getting this feeling that going deaf wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t enough of a price, because going deaf wouldn’t change the outcome of her dream.
Instead I kept having this horrible thought that maybe something worse should happen that would destroy her dream. A specific something. For her goal in the story to save herself and her friends from an awful situation, she would (inadvertently) have to give up one of the things she needed most to accomplish her dream.
Ouch. That really hurt. For several months I tried to ignore that thought, tried to shove it out of my mind, but it wouldn’t leave.
A very good friend of mine and I were talking about my story, and I ended up telling him about my problem. Quite frankly, I whined about it.
He not only agreed that my MC should experience this other, worse idea, but said something that surprised me. He said, “You need to accept it yourself before it will work in the story.”
Excuse me? I’m pretty sure every writer has that one pet story, that one character they feel awful about doing anything mean to. This story and character are my pets. A lot of bad things have happened to Raine, and each time I write another chapter, it hurts me to hurt her.
What is this about acceptance?
Merriam-Webster’s first three definitions of the word define acceptance as:
1 : an agreeing either expressly or by conduct to the act or offer of another so that a contract is concluded and the parties become legally bound.
2 : the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable.
3 : the act of accepting : the fact of being accepted : approval
So why do we, the authors, have to be able to accept what happens in one of our books before it will work?
After I thought about it for a while, it began to make sense.
Uncertainty will show up in your writing. I know that from experience, from times where I have danced around writing certain scenes because they were a bit outside of my comfort zone and I couldn’t bring myself to be forceful enough. Those are always the sections my writer-friends pounce on as being weak and ineffective. I couldn’t accept that, this is what is happening, and it needs to be shown.
Lack of acceptance will weaken your plotline. This too, I’ve learned firsthand. Tentative thrusts into uncharted territories never make for compelling stories. For it to work, and work well, one must be fully immersed in what is taking place.
Don’t ignore the intuition that tells you, this is what needs to happen. It needs to be worse, much worse. Take it seriously and think about it, and if you realize it is correct, no matter how hard it is…
Forget you dislike the idea. If it will make your book better, what is there to dislike?
And don’t slow down. Keep writing, even when it hurts.