In today’s Journal
* Topic: If You Really WANT to Write Into the Dark
* Of Interest
Topic: If You Really WANT to Write Into the Dark
If you Really WANT to let go of all the BS and just write into the dark, please read this post. I’m not saying anything new, but I’m saying it in a new way that some of you might “get” even if you didn’t before.
(Note: If you DON’T want to WITD, I’m not trying to convince you. Feel free to skip down to “Of Interest” or come back tomorrow.)
Of all the things in the world you can easily overthink, writing fiction is probably high on the list. For that reason, writing instructors (including me in the past) have told writers to “be sure you’re in the POV character’s head.”
If, when your characters are telling their story, you’re slowing or stopping their progress to be sure you’re “in the character’s head” or to be sure a certain word was the “right” word or that a certain sentence was the “right” kind or the right length etc., STOP IT. That’s all critical mind stuff.
Stop worrying about whether you’re in the character’s head. If you’re worrying about it or thinking about it, you aren’t in the character’s head. You’re in your own (writer’s) head, thinking. Again, critical mind.
Stop thinking about or worrying about words and sentences. For that matter, stop thinking or worrying about which “process” or which bit of “craft” or “technique” you’re using.
Remember, the characters are pure. They don’t know or care about techniques or craft or processes or any of that. They only want to live their story.
And if you really do want to let go and just convey your characters’ authentic story, there really is absolutely nothing for you to decide and absolutely no reason for you to control anything. That’s the freedom of WITD. So let go of all that. Just get out of the way and let the characters tell the story that they, not you, are living.
The characters know how to tell their story. After all, unlike you, they actually reside in your creative subconscious, RIGHT ALONGSIDE all the Story you’ve absorbed during your lifetime:
They live alongside all the story structure, all the rising and falling action, all the beginnings, middles and ends. They co-exist with all the protagonists and antagonists, all the well-rounded characters and the flat, cardboard characters who exist only to foreshadow other things.
In other words, they have direct access-to and KNOW things about storytelling that you forgot LONG ago. Things you believe you have to “look up” if you want to apply them.
If you trust your characters, they will tell their own story. And they will tell it well and the story will be authentic and good.
What it will NOT be is the hobbled, crippled, uninteresting version of their story that would result from you and your critical mind working it over with Strunk & White’s or some craft book or critical input from people your characters have never even seen before.
Here. If you want to exercise your critcal mind, think about this: How would the baker in your family feel if, as s/he was about to mix up a batch of biscuits, you ran next door and asked your neighbors for their input? Untrusted maybe? Maybe even betrayed? Would s/he (rightly) refuse to have anything to do with you for the foreseeable future?
Well that’s how your characters feel (and respond) when you invite outsiders to advise you on how your characters’ story “should” unfold. And who can blame them?
Seriously, you have to work constantly to let all the conscious, critical-mind stuff go. Don’t second-guess your characters, and don’t even ALLOW anyone else to, much less actually ASK them to.
Defend Your Work. This is a vastly different mindset than splaying your characters’ story naked on the grass and inviting even a select few others to look it over, probe it, and comment on it.
When you write into the dark, you’re only a conduit, letting your characters use your physical fingers on the keyboard to tell the story. You’re only their recorder, or as King calls himself, their stenographer.
Because what’s important is their authentic story, not the conduit through which they conveyed it.
On another topic, if you take the time to leave a comment on any of these posts, I will almost certainly respond. I hope you will return and check to see whether I left a response. My response will be respectful, but I will always defend what I teach. (If I couldn’t defend it, I wouldn’t teach it.)
Talk with you again soon.
See “Regular Monthly Workshop Sale” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/regular-monthly-workshop-sale/.
See “Buy a cat, stay up late, don’t drink: top 10 writers’ tips on writing” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/buy-a-cat-stay-up-late-dont-drink-top-10-writers-tips-on-writing/. Strictly for entertainment.
See “End Art Shame” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/end-art-shame/. What I said above about overthinking? Here you go.
The Journal…………………………………… 770 words
Writing of Carmen Morales (novel, tentative title)
Day 1…… 3007 words. Total words to date…… 3007
Day 2…… 2842 words. Total words to date…… 5849
Total fiction words for September……… 9126
Total fiction words for the year………… 75557
Total nonfiction words for September… 15920
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 144150
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 219707
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Along with discussing various aspects of the writing craft, I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. WITD is NOT “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.
2 thoughts on “If You Really WANT to Write Into the Dark”
Harvey, this is gold. All of it. I’m saving this for those days when the doubts creep in. You couldn’t have said it better. Thank you.
Thanks, Chynna. Glad it helps.
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