I’m working on a new short story for a very cool anthology. And frankly, the story is scaring me to death.
It’s dark. I write darkness. There’s bravery and honor in it. I write bravery and honor. But it’s branching out into subject matter that I generally choose not to discuss, especially concerning an old job that I had. Half of you know what I’m talking about. Yes. Child abuse and molestation.
It’s touchy. It’s very sensitive. It’s something that I have always steered away from, except for a brief mention here or there when I really felt that a mention was needed. Usually that wasn’t the case, however. It isn’t something that I choose to dwell on, and it isn’t something that I choose to exploit. But it’s a key element in this story. Take out that element, and everything unravels. So how do you deal with something that you don’t really want to touch?
Fearlessly. Honestly and with sensitivity. This will look different for everyone. I personally have a few writing rules that I have never broken. One of those rules is that I will never write a graphic rape scene of any kind. While some people tell you that you should purposefully break all of your rules in order to free your creativity, that’s a line that I choose never to cross. Maybe in ten or twenty years I’ll feel differently. I don’t think so. A young child tending to her bruises is all that I feel I need to say in order to get the point across. The horror is still there.
Stories are a strange thing. I wanted it to go into a different direction, with the girl’s trials barely mentioned. But it wasn’t enough. It needed to be brought delicately to the forefront, and since that’s what needed to be done, I did it. So many people think that since we, as authors, write the stories, we’re not affected by them. This isn’t the case.
This was my struggle. Is there a scene that you ever had trouble writing? How do you handle something that needs to be said, but is of a delicate nature?
The things that you find so hard to write are the things that kick the reader in the gut with the raw truth.
I speak from experience of having read what you wrote.
You and I both don’t care for the vulgar, but also do neither of us fear the ugly darkness that lives right alongside the bright and good.
Write it to break it to face it to transform it.
I have the same problem sometimes. I guess it is a place you REALLY don’t want to go. Have you tried humor? It is a great leveler.
Here is a line from one of my latest short stories,
A man with no skin is not a pretty sight. Try to picture it like an ice-cream sundae. You will not feel so queasy.
I did have a scene i had trouble writing once. One of my main characters was raped. I didn’t write a graphic rape scene, but even just mentioning it hurt me, because I’ve been in her shoes. and unfortunately, like yours, the issue needed to be brought to the forefront in order for the story to hold, because that was essentially what it was about, and why she was doing the things she was doing.
I have written a very dark story (not my usual style) that includes and extremely graphic rape scene. This was very uncomfortable for me to write and uncomfortable for the editor to read. It got rejected but I am glad I wrote the story. It helped me to let go of some of the pain I have carried around for many years. It was an ugly story that ended badly for the protagonist but it was a gift for me and helped me to exorcise some demons.
Treat the darkness with dignity and respect–never exploit it, or the victim.
I just finished The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale. Lots of un-prettiness in that book (rape, lynchings, racism…), but I never once felt he exploited any of it.
Good luck, Mercedes.
I love what Aaron said.
You are a great writer and will handle this with the sensitivity it deserves.
There are things I haven’t yet made myself write about, and things I know I’ll have to someday, but wish I didn’t.
I like so many things about your writing, but I’ve always really enjoyed and admired your fearlessness — rather, your willingness to face real, true fears. That’s what a good writer does. <3
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