Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ask O: Must I Weep? Creating Emotional Connections


Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,

Last year at Mt. Hermon, I attended a mentor class lead by the most-awesome Mary DeMuth. One piece of advice stuck with me. “You must PEE on your readers,” she said with a sly grin. Then she explained. “Create Profound Emotional Experiences.”

Of course, she’s right. The books that stick in my mind and, more importantly, in my heart, are the ones Irelate to emotionally. As a writer, I want my stories to resonate with readers.

 But how does one PEE on her readers, you ask?

Well, for me, undersanding how to create intense emotional connections has been a journey—and not an easy one. You’ve heard the saying, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I heard that a long time ago, and I believed it. I thought I got it.

When I wrote, back then, emotions would surface; a tear or two might trickle down. I’d think, Wow, this is good stuff. I’m really touching an emotional nerve.

Looking at those scribblings now, I don’t feel a thing. I may have scraped the surface, but I didn’t dig down deep into the painful core of my being and bravely display it for all to see. And I certainly didn’t weep when I wrote.

When I write my stories now, I have to be careful in public because I literally sob. Yes, I do. Just yesterday, in the foyer of the church where my homeschool co-op meets, I decided to get a little writing done. A teenage student sat next to me on the cushioned couch, and another mom was taking a little snooze on the other side. Within moments, I lost myself in the story and tears began to flow. I knew if I didn’t stop myself, the sobs would erupt and I’d create an awkward moment for the teen and wake up the mom. 

Why is weeping important? Because she knows. She is one of my critique partners, SW’s very own Annette Irby. When I don’t cry as I write, she always catches it. “Um, I’m not feeling this, O,” she may say, or “Am I supposed to feel something here, because, honey, I’m not.” (Don’t worry, we’ve been critiquing together long enough that no-one’s feelings get hurt.)

I’m so grateful she catches these lapses, because if she doesn’t feel it, readers won’t either.

So after she marks up my pages, I go back and plunge deeper into the emotions I fearfully avoided in earlier drafts until my heart aches with the character’s pain. Then I close my eyes and type, tears streaming down my face, accompanied by audible, undignified, outbursts.

And something else. A sense of healing.

As vulnerable as I feel; as heart-wrenching as it is, by God’s kind mercy, these weeping sessions do more than boost my writing. I learn things about myself. Ugly roots are exposed and pulled out, and those emotional breakdowns often become some of my most intimate moments with God.

Must you weep? Well, I suppose not. But I recommend it.
What about you? Do you cry when you write? I'd love to hear your experience with creating emotional connectons.
God bless and happy writing!




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