Secrets Revealed

Linda Clare tells all! Not. But as we move through this most difficult recession, how many novelists feel as if they must keep their real life a secret, their food separated from their whine? That is, how many believe it our duty to keep secrets about our writer lives, lest we be seen as whiners? Even my fiction students often are reluctant to admit how much “life” gets in the way of writing.
For many, writing is decidedly a supplemental income. We expect to add to the pot, not fill it. When our significant other or the main breadwinner loses a job, when grown children come home to roost (again!), when family members get sick or when you’re in constant fear of being homeless, it’s hard to keep a secret. My husband, bless his heart does not wish the world to know when our situation is dire. But I’m a writer. I write from my emotions and when those emotions swirl faster than a hurricane, I have a hard time keeping them out of my writing. In my opinion, if a writer completely separates life from fiction, that writer may end up severing an important nerve, depriving the prose of the emotions that make the prose work in the first place. Yet, no one wants to read a rant or a piece dripping with self-pity.
The answer? Truth vs. facts. Tell the emotional truth and lie about everything else. By “lie,” I mean write a fictional world that expresses your sorrow, joy, anxiety or anger.
Writing Tip for Today: Put your emotions (positive and negative) to good use without putting off readers with TMI (too much info). Luckily, it’s possible to weave your real problems into your writing without telling all about your private life. Got a problem aunt? Make her an uncle (with a pot belly and receding hair). If she’s tall and thin, give her a short husky body type. Blondes go brunette. Give a character an annoying habit and the chances of the live person recognizing him/herself lessen. Frustrated about your living conditions? Imagine and write yourself a world where you are surrounded in weath. Some readers want to be transported away from their problems, others rely on writers to paint a realistic world. The former are perhaps easier to imagine, but even realistic fiction can be based in fact–facts the “real life” person will never recognize. Change the details, but write your heart out.

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