Five Experiences Writing Fiction Gives You (That Other Things Can’t)

715277_antiquariat_2Today’s post is meant to celebrate the uniqueness of creative writing as a pastime and a calling. I don’t mean to imply that writing stories is better than doing other things; just that it has its own place and that it’s as worthy a calling as anything else.

Writing can do a lot of awesome things for us. Perhaps there are other hobbies or jobs that you could apply one or two these observations to, but probably not all of them. Some of these I might have mentioned before, but today, specifically, I wanted to gather them in one place under a special heading:

THINGS ONLY A WRITER CAN UNDERSTAND

1. That awful feeling when you realize you hate one of your characters doing a certain thing, or acting a certain way, because it’s something you hate about yourself.

I could list so many negative characters of my characters and how I exhibit them, if hopefully to a lesser extent.

  • Villain Zalski Forzythe’s propensity to get carried away in the heat of the moment, and to try to control things he simply can’t control.
  • Kidnapper Dorane Polve’s inability to recognize his strengths and potential. He really focuses on just one thing he’s good at, one talent he has, and feels he is worthless otherwise. That honestly used to be me. That’s one reason walking away from academia was such a HUGE accomplishment for me and has led to so much personal growth. I felt I was “book smart” but had no other talents and wasn’t good for anything else. (Simply NOT TRUE!)
  • Kansten Cason’s tendency to compare herself to others and feel she doesn’t measure up. I’ve made great strides here recently!

2. That moment when you realize your characters’ crises and struggles are YOUR OWN, just “renamed” to “protect the innocent.”

Namely, to protect yourself. Because writing fiction is SCARY. It means opening up your soul, and most of us have to take precautions and protections when we do that. So we reshape and alter and exaggerate and transform things. For instance: maybe feelings of frustration and fruitlessness and hopelessness at work turn into a character feeling that same way about a completely different job, or maybe about infertility issues, or maybe about a dead-end relationship. But it’s all still therapy for confronting those emotions, whatever the real cause.

3. The temptation to get revenge via fictionalized versions of people who mistreat you. And the satisfaction of knowing you’re the only one who really understands what you’re writing and why.

Pretty self explanatory!

4. Writing something that strikes you as “off the wall” and wondering where the heck it came from.

All I can say is, depending on HOW it’s “off the wall,” pondering where it came from–what part of you, what life experiences, what fears or concerns or desires–can honestly be beneficial. Other times, it’s best to just let things go. I mean, I don’t think J.K. Rowling has any real sympathy for or shares many things with Voldemort!

5. “Dude, that’s FUNNY. I can be funny? Who knew?”

This happens to me sometimes. I’m not particularly witty on most occasions. I am much more a deep thinker than a quick thinker. And that’s fine; when I have time to think things over, and can craft a great joke to put in the mouth of the perfect character for it…. That’s an awesome moment. It’s a reminder that I can be funny on occasion, even if I’ll never be a stand-up comic.

So, do you find that any of these things hold true for you as a writer? What would you say is one thing writing does for you, or allows you to experience, that other pastimes don’t provide?

Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”

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23 responses to “Five Experiences Writing Fiction Gives You (That Other Things Can’t)

  1. There was a certain political cause that I used to care about a great deal. I voted for it, argued for it, and donated money for it. Then one day, as I was writing a scene for an as yet unfinished novel, I suddenly realized all my characters were fighting against the very political cause I thought I believed in. Turns out that deep down, I actually believed the exact opposite. I never would have had this realization if not for my writing.

  2. Another great post! I just had an idea for a similar but from a different angle. I’ll be sure to reference yours!

  3. I’ve been told by a few people to do #3 in regards to negative reviewers and a few mean emails. Odd thing is that I see including someone in my books as a good thing even if I kill them off. So, I do the opposite and swear to never base a character off that person.

    I hit #4 with one of my villains all the time. Having a pure evil character really makes one wonder about their own sanity at times.

  4. Great post Victoria. I know a lot of writers say that they are their own best resource for creating characters. It’s amazing what is hiding away in all our subconsciouses and creeps out when we are not looking.

    • It is so true!!!! We all have so many experiences and are so complex…. I think people are always trying to simplify and condense people. It’s easier than accepting that we are all equally complex and have the same human dignity.

  5. It really is wonderful, what we can accomplish in fiction – it allows us to uncover our flaws, exorcise our demons, discover new skills, and live out those dreams and fantasies we can’t possibly pursue in the non-written world. So cheers to fiction – the writer’s greatest resource!

  6. Exploring subject matter I normally wouldn’t delve into provides me with more insight. As a writer, I love to learn new things.

  7. Pingback: Five Experiences Writing Fiction Gives You (That Other Things Can’t) | theowlladyblog

  8. Pingback: Five Experiences Writing Fiction Gives You (That Other Things Can’t) | Amy L Sauder

  9. I would say it lets me live in different environments I would never experience otherwise, both geographically and in time. When I write a scene, I’m in it physically, and experience it right along with my characters. That’s the most valuable thing writing does for me.

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  11. Pingback: Monday Warm Fuzzies: Some Tidbits To Start Your Week Off Happy | Line, word, letter

  12. Hi Victoria,
    The one I really relate to is No. 5. I have found that although I can say the odd, amusing remark in real life I am much funnier in fiction. Different types of humour too! My main character’s mother says some funny and frustrating things about her daughter that surprised me!

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