When stories hurt.
We all know that writing hurts. It drains us emotionally, physically strains us, and is overall not a very pleasant experience. The process of writing causes us no end of grief, which would make any non-writer ask why we insist on pressing forward.
That's just something that only a writer would understand, because, as Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.”
We keep going, despite the pain. Because we know it, we live through it, we conquer it, and it is one of the many things God uses to strengthen us.
But when I say that stories hurt, I don't mean it in that sense. No, today I'm talking about a different kind of pain, one that comes not from writing stories, but from the stories themselves.
When we read, we get carried away in the story. I know I'm not the only one who can open a paperback and be transported from my life to a completely different one. One where I can see, touch, hear and experience a life completely different, a million miles or a thousand years away. A world that doesn't actually exist, but in my mind, is as real as where I'm sitting.
That's the power of a story.
When we write, chances are we're experiencing the same thing. When we create our stories, we take the forms of our characters, and transport ourselves into their world. How else are we supposed to construct and create a world if we're not there, experiencing it as it comes to life?
If we want to write well, we need to jump in with both feet and breathe our own life into it. It's hard, it's sometimes confusing, and it's often exhilarating.
And sometimes painful.
I am currently writing the next installment of the Roman Soul Series. In this book, Marcus' life has been turned completely upside down, starting with the death of one of his friends. I recently spent a few days cultivating that scene, the one where he is told that his friend was killed. The pain and grief that overwhelmed him was not something that I could just whip out.
It was more than a word count, a scene, or a plot twist. This was his heart, a piece of him, his friend who had been killed. This was something that would, if it happened to us, bring us to our knees, and give us a grief and pain that can't quickly or easily be described.
A kind of feeling that goes beyond our description and character techniques.
You can learn all you want about writing fiction, but when it comes down to it, if we don't become the character, we're not going to get a character worth reading about. So I have worked for years to achieve one thing: the ability to become the character. I didn't know if I had succeeded until I wrote that scene. That's when I realized something.
I had become the character.
Because as he was told that his friend was dead, as he felt the pain and grief, I felt it too. To a non-writer, that would probably seem crazy. But something tells me that you, as a writer, know what I'm talking about.
Even if you've never experienced it in your writing, you've experienced it while reading. How many books have made you cry, made you laugh, made you feel the pain or joy or whatever the characters are feeling?
That's the power of writing, particularly fiction, if it's done from the heart. Not just from the passion, but from the core of your soul. When the writer is willing to put their heart on their sleeve, and bleed with their characters.
If anyone had seen me (and it's a good thing no one did), they would have thought it was my best friend who had died. Because I was my character. Because all that time of trying had resulted in my having the ability to delve so far into my world that I take on the identity of the person I'm writing about.
And sometimes it hurts.
But that's good.
You didn't regret reading that book that made you cry, did you? Or the one that stirred your soul, made you look at something differently, feel something you might never have felt before. Did you ever wish that you hadn't read it, or that it hadn't made you feel that way?
I never have, because it changed me. Slightly, in a way barely noticeable, but the emotions and feelings brought on by books is one of the things that shapes me.
When we write, like I've said many times, we're not writing just so we can give someone a good story to pass some time. No, we're doing this for God, and He's not in the entertainment business. He's in the business of taking lives, hearts, and souls, and changing them. He uses ways beyond our own understanding, and fiction is one of them.
These stories we write, this pain that we feel, isn't something to be taken lightly. When we delve into these and feel the deepest, greatest, even the most painful feelings, we are reaching into somewhere and something only He can produce. It's like we're stepping into another world, one God is not only going to use to change us, but to change our readers.
The greatest feeling in the world is to know that the Lord Himself is working through you, writing through you, and in some small way, changing the world through you. I felt it. And it hurt. And I'm grateful for it. Because He's changing me.
And when you write, when you feel that unexplainable force that takes you over, and even when it hurts, He's touching you.
And through you, He is touching the world.