I know the “ewww” factor will be high on this title, but it’s meant to make you uncomfortable … because if you are an author and you want your readers to feel exactly what your characters are feeling, you’re going to have to bleed.
The other day in my awesome critique group, I told one of my friends that he just scratched the surface of emotion in a piece … the he just picked at the edge of the scab when he really needed to pull it off. Driving home that day, I realized I needed to heed my own advice for a scene.
One of the signs of good writing is how emotionally involved the reader is with the characters. Adding depth ensures that when a character laughs, the reader laughs; and when a character hurts, the reader feels that same pain. And, for the latter, it may mean that the writer will have to bear the brunt of that emotion to fully bring the reader into the story.
Sometimes, diving into that drags us into a dark place that we’d rather not revisit. But you, dear writer, do not have the luxury to not look away from painful or uncomfortable memories. You owe it to your readers to go there, face your fears to give them the most authentic experience.
I realized I didn’t go deep enough the other day. It’s a painful scene with my main character, something that knocks the air out of her lungs. I first wrote it during a writers retreat with a couple of awesome writer pals (hi Chrissy and Amber! *waves*) and when I finished, I gasped at the end and teared up.
But it wasn’t good enough. I had to go deeper, I had to show the hurt she experienced, even if it meant I had to go back to parts of my life where I’d rather not return (ask any of my friends from my single days, if they had to eat Oreos in bed with me, they don’t want me going back there either).
So, I went back in. I worked on building up the emotion and pain. And this time, the tears couldn’t stop.
Did I pull the scab all the way off?
Only a reader can tell me.