I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people. This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters. One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt. So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.
We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings. I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it. I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child. I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced. One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.
Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure. We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it. I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past. My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.
We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person. That being said, no pain is too great to overcome. Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure. I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain? There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to. This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?! I have been wronged!” Yes, yes you have been. You know what? So have the people you think are against you.
If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow? If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern. If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing? Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division. There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness. If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.
In a creative writing class I had several years ago, the teacher cautioned against writing in dialect. The irony was that at the same time I was taking an Advanced Placement English class that assigned several books written in that particular style. Throughout high school and subsequently college I have periodically read books written in dialect, and I can see why it isn’t common place anymore.
“There Eyes Were Watching God” is often hailed as a classic, and assigned in classrooms all across the country. I struggled to get through it, I could barely make out what the characters were saying. I love reading, obviously since I’m a writer, but reading books written entirely or mostly in dialect is an insurmountable challenge for me. I can figure it out, but my brain wants to fix the words which means it makes reading slow.
Authors are called to “show nor tell” in their stories, and writing in dialect is one way to accomplish that. To me, though this shows the pitfalls of relying too heavily on showing and not implementing it wisely. Sometimes, writing short bursts of dialogue, such as a few lines, might be a creative way to show a character’s accent. Writing an entire book that way is clunky. That isn’t me saying I claim to be a better writer than these classical authors, but I share this perspective to let others know that if they feel the same, they aren’t alone. If you are like me, then dialect can be not only clunky, but distracting from the overall plot. Thank goodness it is a product of the past.
It was November of 2013 when I first started blogging on WordPress.com. Since then, I have learned much about myself and the whole blogging process. What started out as a mission to let the readers gain insight into the worlds I built and the process of writing, became so much more.
Truth be told, blogging was something I despised. I saw it as a way for people to sit from the safety of their homes and critique the world around them without having to get involved. Around the time of started on WordPress, I knew of someone who used his blog to spew criticism at the culture. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say about societal shortcomings, but I wanted a theme, something to tie my stuff together and that’s writing.
Writing was to be the topic and I resolved not to deviate from that. In July of 2017 I finally moved on from WordPress.com and bought a domain. Along with that came a new vision with my blog. During the couple years I only wrote about writing, I struggled with topics, yet I did not want to be an armchair critic. Blogging after all is something anyone can do, anything can be said, and facts largely become irrelevant. That isn’t something I want to be a part of. However, many authors use blogging to discuss life, social issues, and the world.
I realized that if a reader is going to take the time to read a blog they want to know more than the ins and outs of writing. A variety of content is essential, especially if a blog is going to become monetized. I began writing on more topics, and realized that I can do it in a way where I don’t have to offer sanctimonious platitudes without facts. I can write about my observations in the world, sharing my thoughts and feelings while at the same time directing my own words back at myself. I have a blog about refusing to get offended but instead pausing and taking time to formulate our thoughts instead. This is something I need to do, especially in this crazy world that only seems to be getting more insane. Now, the challenge is to not become what I dislike about blogging, and become a critic from behind a computer screen without living up to my own standard.
I am a millennial. We are known for two things, 90s nostalgia and getting offended, especially the later. While Millennials on college campuses are the poster men and women for offense. It seems to me that being predisposed to offense goes beyond my generation. I think that social media is the root of a lot of offense. How about instead of getting offended we get thoughtful.
We are steeped in technology and information. How companies get their information to you through all the other sources is to pander to what you want to hear and believe. As a result, we lose our ability to empathize with someone else. That, requires effort. We must seek out what the “other side” believes. It’s okay to disagree, but what happened with civil discourse and free exchange of ideas without someone feeling it is a personal attack?
In the era of knee-jerk reactions and visceral reactions on the internet, I challenge whoever is reading this and myself to respond thoughtfully. It goes against every instinct within us. When we are hurt we want to get even, make them suffer and feel pain. There is enough of that on the internet. Why don’t we instead learn why we believe what we believe and support it with facts and research? When replying to posts we disagree with, why don’t we keep calm and explain our position rationally. This is something we should all think about.
I have written about avoiding clichés, and even pointing out clichés that aren’t discussed often. Something else came to my attention recently. Most stories have clichés, in fact I cannot think of a single book, movie, or TV show that completely avoids clichés. Perhaps there is something out there that doesn’t utilize an overused trope in its story, but I do not believe I encountered one.
The issue is how often do clichés appear and how they are utilized. There are common threads that bind genres together, obviously, that is what makes them genres. Yet, when something like a magical weapon that must be found, or destroyed in order to destroy the big bad is used, we automatically think of Tolkien. In fact, that cliché is so overused in the fantasy genre that a story guilty of using this type of plot will be accused of being a Lord of the Rings rip-off. However, lesser-used clichés, like a character finding what he needs in the middle of the book will be less obnoxious and more forgivable.
Stories that have noticeably less clichés and strive to be their own tale, instead of a repackage of their inspiration are what authors strive for. In the search for originality, it is easy to loop back around into the territory of cliché once again. Us writers should always intend to avoid things that are over used, but sometimes it is inevitable. Just like in the real world, things repeat. It is simply important to know when and where to use them and to be careful.