As a writer, I’ve wondered what do I offer my readers? Do I possess what it takes? What do I have to say that anybody wants to hear?
Lofty volumes of prose line many library shelves. Some deliver profound messages, soothing to the ears. Some hold you spellbound with intrigue or humor. And then some curl the hair on your neck as you quickly turn the page to discover the killer. Besides constantly polishing your knowledge of the writing craft and striving for the title of a great storyteller, there’s another element to this writing thing.
The author’s ability to share knowledge, life experiences, and enlightenments within the context of a story. To make it matter.
What have you learned or experienced in your life that you bring to the page? Many of us bring our writing degrees, our teaching degrees, our years of contributions to magazines, lit mags, newspapers, and we bring awards. Oh, so many writing awards. And, that’s wonderful. Commendable, in fact. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
To quote Dorothy Allison (one of my favorites.) She made this profound statement at the Maui Writing Conference many years ago. ” … writers come to the page for many, many reasons. In fact many of us do come in the hope of justice! We do come in the hope of balance! We do come with an agenda of love! But I’m telling you now, lots of us start with a desire for genuine revenge.”
Do you bring revenge to your written pages? Anger? Truth?
“Are you saying there has to be some deep, dark reason why we write? Can’t I just write for fun?”
Of course you can, and many do. But once again, in my humble opinion, the writing that lasts for generations is written from the cobwebbed corners of a writer’s mind. Those basements and attics where the writer fears to tread, but goes anyway.
“But,” you say, “I write humor.”
Ah, yes. Dissect that humor. Much of our humor also comes from pain. You know that old cliche spoken in the midst of anger and frustration … “We’re going to laugh about this later.” Laughter through tears … it’s a powerful emotion. Take it to the page.
“Do you mean, then, write what you know?”
Not just what you know, but what you feel. What you’ve seen. What matters. The gut-wrenching moments in your life that cut deep into your heart. Write about that. Write about the scars. Who gave them to you, and how you healed, or how you still suffer from those scars. Give your character a piece of your life story that you want to share with the world. Dig out the best and worst of your memories, and include them in your stories. Write not just what you know, but what brought you out of a dark spot. What event turned you inside out, not just what made you uncomfortable. Write your passions, your desires, what moves you. Write that.
Those are the guts of a good story. Bring that to the page.