Some time ago, I heard an author talk about the five plus one things he wished he'd known before he started writing a novel. One of the points he raised spoke to my heart. He said, "Write about something that scares you." Now, he didn't mean the "boo!" kind of scary. He was talking about writing about the dark stuff, delving into the unknown, pushing the envelope. In other words, writing it real.
I maintain that no writer worth their own spit can write without coming up against an uncomfortable subject sooner or later. It's got to happen or there is no story, no tension. Your work will be one-dimensional. An illustration might be, painting taupe on an off-white canvas. When you finish your great masterpiece, and stand back, crossing your arms over your chest, gazing upon your unparalleled work, what do you see? Blah. But, if you slam a bucket of wild red across the canvas, ah, then you've created interest. You've created dimension.
We worry too much about what others will think about what we write, and I think this happens often within a writers' group. It's difficult to reveal your words, your inner brain workings, to others. What will they think? Will they think it's dirty or lewd, or twisted somehow? Will they be grossed out? Will it be a reflection on me? We should not be so modest.
A writer must write in the moment. If your character is that person who unluckily became a by-stander in a convenience store robbery, and his face is pressed against the cold tile floor, you need to be able show your reader what the floor smelled like (all those rubber soles that went before, spilled coffee, did someone urinate in the corner?), the hoarse panting of someone an aisle over (sounds like a smoker's cough), how did it sound when the doors to the cold storage shattered as a bullet jetted through them, does he taste his own blood because one of the assailants slammed him to the floor (bitter iron paint, spewing from his jaws)?
There are more controversial subjects; i.e., rape, incest, family violence, terminal illness, divorce, death, mental illness, or murder. Point is, at some point you need to pick one and let yourself write about it. Push the envelope. Write about something scary. Let yourself be free with it.
Write about something that scares you to the bone when you go back and read it. And don't be modest. Do you think Stephen King got to where he is by being modest?
Be honest, write in the moment. Write about something that challenges you.
About Yvonne Erwin
Yvonne Erwin is a contemporary women's fiction writer, living in Springfield, Missouri. Her passions include reading, writing, gardening, cooking, traveling and experiencing new adventures. She seldom goes very far without her camera, which she's nicknamed her "mini-me."
Currently, Yvonne is serving as President of the Springfield Writers' Guild, a chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, and is a member of Ozarks Romance Authors. In 2012, Yvonne won second place in the prose-fiction category in the 19th Annual Springfield Writers' Contest Literacy Contest.
Yvonne's first novel, "The Discovery of Joy," was released February 2, 2015, in the women's fiction category. Her second novel, "The Sisters of Madelaine Street," was released September 27, 2016.