Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…
Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.
The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”
Three simple words that changed my story method forever.
Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.
As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?
I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.
I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.
Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.
Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.
Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”
Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?
That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
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