My final #FridayFlash for 2010 engendered reactions that made me think about how much pain and emotion I put in my stories.
Readers described it as "prickly", "blinding", "dark", "potent" even "brutal". One reader said that the story really hit home because it was his father in a nutshell. Another reader found so much in the story that she sent me a message, asking if I was okay, if this was autobiography.
There's a school of thought on writing fiction which says that you should bare your soul, pour out all your emotion onto the page, make the words come alive with the truth that lies within you. By infusing your prose with the real intensity of real emotion drawn from real experiences, the story will grip the reader and never let go. Long after they close the book, they will be haunted by your words. Your writing will be unforgettable.
This, of course, is the promise of ALL schools of thought on writing.
Pouring out all your emotions onto the page isn't fiction writing or biographical writing - it's therapeutic writing. I've done that in journals for years and years; helpful for establishing equilibrium and making sense of the world, but not for writing fiction. In my more grandiose moments, I'm sure that someday, biographers will produce new revelations about the great Tony Noland by matching up dates in the journals with those of key events in my life. It'll be amazing, shocking, amusing, and helpful to posthumous book sales, which my estate will appreciate.
However, my private opinions on, reactions to and musings about people, events, etc., are just that: private. They may provide grist for the mill, spice for the soup, or some other comparable metaphor, but I have no intention of doing a straight braindump of the sweepings from the dark corners of my mind and calling it prose on the page.
Could I make up stuff wholesale and still have it be engaging? Keep the various truths of my life completely out of the writing? Well, no, I don't think you can. You need to start with some kernel of truth, or you'll really have no idea what you're talking about. However, once you've begun with truth, you need to carry it forward with
Perhaps I'm not putting enough of myself in the work, playing my cards too close to the vest. I'm going to work on this more in my own prose.
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