Friday, May 4, 2012

You Can't Do That!

Let's talk a little more about fear, shall we? A slightly different kind of fear.

Say you have this great story idea. A teenaged boy's parents die in a car crash, and now he has to live with his uncle who is an alcoholic and cruel to him and…

Wait a minute. You can do that. You HAVE an alcoholic uncle. If you wrote something like that, what would he think? What would the rest of the family think?

OK, maybe this idea. These four kids live in this small town in the middle of nowhere. A circus blows in one crisp fall day. Suddenly, children go missing. After a child is taken, a creepy looking doll is left in his/her place, and…

Hold it. You can't write that either. That's a horror story! What would your mother think? Your spouse? Your church pastor??

OK. One more. A mother loses her son at an early age, and now she has to deal with the effects that has on her marriage and…

Stop, you definitely can't write that. That's too personal and PAINFUL to write about!

So, you can't write about the alcoholic, abusive uncle, and you can't write about evil circus people stealing children, and you can't write about a woman who loses her son and has to deal with the aftermath. Why? Because you're either afraid of what other people might think, or you're afraid of your OWN thoughts about the situation.


If you had to stop every time you put some conflict into your story that touched on a nerve, be it your own or someone else's, nothing would get written. There would be no story, because there would be no conflict. All you'd be left with is fluffy bunnies frolicking in a field of lettuce. Unless you know someone who objects to the exploitation of fluffy bunnies. Then you won't even have THAT.

Now, I'm not saying you need to go out of your way to bad-mouth your loved ones, write a story so horrifying you alienate yourself from every civilized person you know and acquire some new friends who aren't so civilized in the process, or cause yourself so much pain from dredging up old memories you don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning. All I'm saying is, if your story calls for these types of elements, you can't be afraid to write them down!

Think about this. Maybe some of your readers also dealt with an abusive caretaker, and they WANT to read a story like that. They're looking to make some sense out of the situation. Or something horrific happened in their own lives, and they're looking for a safe place to deal with that by reading your horror story. Your story can do that for someone, but only if you're not afraid to write down the details.

Writing can be therapeutic. That's the beauty of writing. You can use it to face your own fears. But writing is even more powerful than that. It also has the power to help OTHERS deal with THEIR fears as well.

So don't be afraid to write it all down. Conquer those fears, both yours and your readers'!


  1. You're so right, George! I know I had that thought "what would my mother think if I used that word in that context..." worries myself when I first started writing. But then I realized that it's not my mother speaking. It's the character. : ) Of course, still using out own ethics that our parents taught us is never a bad and we can incorporate some characters with those same ethics in our stories right alongside those characters who are different from our mothers. Diversity in fiction characters is like diversity in life.

  2. I would be content in my accomplishments as a writer knowing that something I wrote about my own experiences helped someone else.

  3. George, you know the voice that lives in my head! So funny. I've gone through this. It took me some time to come to the realization that you mention here. There can be good that comes from writing about hard things - for me as the writer, and for others who read and know that they haven't suffered alone.

    Great post. Glad I found your blog.

  4. Thanks everyone for your support on this one. Makes me feel good to have this one validated. Keep writing fearlessly, everyone!