"Honest" Writing

I'm not sure how much grief I may get for this blog post or whether or not I understand what it is that I'm trying to say to the extent that I may convey it clearly to anyone else. But lately I've found that when my writing is lacking it's due to the fact that I have written what I would call an "honest" book.

By "honest" I mean a book that genuinely taps into emotions and conveys them to the reader. I've picked up tons of books that I was excited to read only to find that they fell flat when reading them. They may have initially captured my interest, but they failed to touch my heart. And that is failure with a book. As writers we are told to write what we know or to write from the heart. But how many of us truly understand that to do this means to put our emotions out there for anyone to see. We must lay our souls bare in order to capture the essence of our story. Notice... I didn't say our character's soul? That's because whether we like it or not our characters are a true reflection of what we see, feel, think and hear. Their experiences are our own and until we truly understand the emotions that come with those experiences we can't truly write and "honest book".

I write about grief a lot in my stories. Mostly, there's the grief of losing a loved one. When I wrote Three Truths my mother's cancer had taken it's final downturn. This was in January of that year and we were told that there would be no more surgeries, she could undergo the chemo and radiation, but the effect would remain the same. I don't remember having a physical reaction to the news. I know that I was sad, but on the outside I remained hopeful for my mother's sake. I sat down to write Three Truths and I wanted to write about possibilities and about hope. In many ways I accomplished this, but I also, ironically, dealt with loss and the ability to open your heart again after loss. I had no idea how important that was going to become to me in the short 9 months after the final diagnosis. But all the fears, hurt, hope... they're all there in the book. I set it all in a fairy tale setting, but the emotions were mine and they were real.

I've been working on a new story lately, one that I haven't fully come to realize it's potential. There is plenty of potential there. But I realized that what was bothering me most was that I hadn't managed to inject enough "honesty" into the story. The characters were too good, too happy and too settled to be set amongst a mystery. I hadn't given them hardships and I hadn't given them a heart that could shatter or break open wide with love. I hadn't given them something that they couldn't bear to lose and then taken it away from them.

So, it's back to the drawing board. I need to understand just what it is that they are truly hiding within themselves. Maybe, when I do discover it... I'll be able to write that "honest" book.

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