Monday, April 26, 2010

Things you're not proud of

Have you ever written a scene that contained something from your past, that you weren't proud of? I haven't yet, but I'm thinking about it.

In some ways I think it might be therapeutic to talk about it, but in other ways, it could be trouble.

I'm not talking about something really bad, like burglary, battery, or murder. If you've done that I think you might have other issues to deal with. Although being completely honest, if you write thrillers... NO.. don't even go there.

What I'm talking about is, have you ever told a white lie, or maybe one that was a little gray, and felt really bad about it later? Or maybe you shoplifted a small item from a store when you were a kid.

OK, so that last one hit close to home. I admit it, and I'm not proud of it. I think I was maybe 7 or 8, I walked down to the local drugstore, and put a box of candy in my pocket. I knew it was wrong, but I didn't put it back. I have no idea why. I think I even had enough money to pay for it, it must have been something about the thrill of not getting caught, or getting away with something.

The weird thing was, when I went to eat the candy, I couldn't. I felt too guilty. I think I ended up giving my stolen booty to my brother, who of course ate it without realizing what I had done.

If I think back, there are probably a lot of situations that I am not proud of, where I fought with my brother, wife, or friends, and probably share significant part of the blame. I wonder if I can tap into those feelings, and if they are universal enough so that my readers can relate to them.

I think that is key. If the feeling is something that isn't universal, then I think you have to work a lot harder to get the reader to understand, if it's possible to do it at all. Feelings that are fairly universal, on the other hand, allow the reader to tap into your emotions much quicker.

What about you? Have you written scenes of real events that happened to you, something that you aren't necessarily proud of now? Would you?


  1. "What about you? Have you written scenes of real events that happened to you, something that you aren't necessarily proud of now? Would you?"

    I would do it in a heartbeat, but I haven't yet. You can observe and mutate all of the personal hell around you. It's like an embarrassment of riches.

  2. I've used events from my past as inspiration, but never written them. Mind you, I haven't exactly lead a life full of novel-worthy events :)

  3. interesting post, Doug. if we've universal themes then, of course, we must have universal emotions (that those themes play along). makes sense, then, to pull out of our own past actions that inspired the "most" emotion.

    the kid & candy story can easily be mutated to a more adult theme. any time you can twist the knife, you've got your readers' attention. go for it :)


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.