Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing outside our comfort areas

“Kathryn, think ‘commercial/mainstream’, not ‘literary’” Huh? "Think The Waltons, not The Godfather;" ... Okay, I'm getting it, I think.

"Think light happy endings and charm and wit, not without sorrow or a little darkness, but there has to be a light at the end, and there has to be warm resolution and something to leave a big happy smile on the reader’s face. . ." Wait; I think I'm getting it. So, instead of my story having all that darkness and FURY, I need to lighten it up a bit and give it a satisfactory and sweet ending that leave reader's smiling and going "awwww," right? "Pretty much, yes. Your story ending with your character (doing this strange weird thing) just isn't going to work . . . it ends too dark, even if it ends with some hope . . . the last image is a bit disturbing; great for literary writing, not so great for what our audience for this particular anthology expects. But keep your own voice intact; you see?" Okay, yes, I see that now.

"Look at this example." [Kat reads example: light story, some sorrow but all works out in the end, last image makes me go "aww!" and all is touching and light, despite the sorrow that happened. Throw in a quirky character or two, and voila!] Yes, yes, I see now. Kat then goes to story and takes a deeeeeep breath and first saves the darker story under another file because she will use it elsewhere, then begins to smash the DELETE KEY. Half the story GONE, and the other half is morphing into something else . . .

Fiddle fiddle, tweak tweak; what happens is, when I changed the situation and some of the surrounding characters, the main character is still the same person! But, since the situation surrounding her changes, her reaction to her world is different—hummmm, kind of like real life would be. If my circumstances had been different, I'd react to the world differently than I do, but I'd still be Me, right? Hmmm. What is coming out is a charming lighter story that’s fun to write, and not so depressing, to boot. And it's not hurting as much as I thought it would.

My friends, sometimes we have to stick to what we know, because that’s what we most want to write. But sometimes going outside of our “comfort areas” could bring forth a part of us we didn’t know we had; and as well, we can stretch those writing muscles a bit. Or, find a new itch that needs scratching. This has happened to me twice in the last couple of months when I've been asked to contribute something to an anthology that is in a different "style" than I am used to. The irony is, when I first began writing short stories, I wrote more like what they want me to write for these anthologies, but found it hard for the literary publications to accept those stories. Hmmmmm.

Oh, I balked at first. Change my story? I caaaannn’t. But, I can’t I? Sure I can, and I am excited. I am living the life I dreamed about: someone asking me to contribute instead of me searching for places to submit. Wow! You bet I'm going to write my arse off and see what I can come up with. DELETE DELETE/RE-WRITE RE-WRITE. See what happens. Take a chance. Find a side of myself that has lain dormant, but without changing my own style, my own way of writing, my fingerprint--that's important, not to change who and what you are to satisfy someone else: there is a difference and that difference is important to me, and it is important to Bellebooks and to the people I write for. I slept on it, and this morning woke up excited—something came clear to me. I can’t wait to dive into the characters and new situations. Huhn.

What about you? Have you had to write outside your “comfort area?”

Friends, Go by and give Janna Something She Wrote a hug - her father has passed away.

And Barry at An Explorer's Life wrote up a sweet post - made me cry. Barry is going through so much now, and I just love him. Also, Michelle Hickman posted about authors, and I'm there, too - made me smile. What good friends here in BlogLand - supporting each other and lifting each other up.
AND! Tender Graces is still Number ONE on Amazon Kindle Literary! OMG! I thought it would go back down after it went back to full price, but it's still No 1 - Kathryn Stockett's The Help is No 2 -- omg! I'm so excited! Okay, if you go there and it's slipped down, don't tell me yet -I want to keep this grin on my silly little pea-headed face *LAUGH*! WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!


Marisa Birns said...


I'm in the writing short stories and hoping to submit them stage, but, yes, I have found it hard to write outside my comfort zone. But ultimately rewarding!

You are correct. It's just another side of a writer; no need to change the fingerprints.

Stretching keeps one fit and flexible. And, ultimately, very interesting. :)

I checked. Tender Graces is still number one! Go, you!

Terri Tiffany said...

Wow! You covered a lot today! I so can appreciate what you are saying about writing outside of what we normally want to write. The 3000 words I deleted yesterday were pretty depressing chapters.I thought I needed them in so the reader would get how bad the situation was but found out it doesn't take that much to convince a reader. Do trying to lighten it up and yes, my character was the same:)

Congrats on being asked to write for an anthology! I would love that one and congrats that your book is still doing well!
I have finally started SG and can't wait to dig deeper:)

Kelly Bryson said...

This is an interesting question- is it selling out to lighten a story just so your readers will accept it more readily? Is it just giving people what they want? Or is it trusting your editor or agent and finding a new way to share your character's struggle, a way that people will savor?

I like how you say that you're not changing the MC, just the people around her.

Diane said...

So exciting that your book is hanging on to number 1! Yeah! :O)

Karen said...

Whoo Hooo, # 1! Yes, I tried a science fiction story for nano last year. Whew!

muser said...

The more I learn, the more I realize how much more I don't know! The more I improve as a writer, the more room I have for more never ends, does it? I agree, we have to stretch to stay limber/flexible. Sometimes my Parkinson's makes my hamstrings and gluts tighten up to the point every step hurts, but I know if I don't walk it out, my muscles will only get tighter. I never related this to my writing until I read this blog. I tend toward "Pollyannaism" - so Southern. Why, yes, everything's jus fine. Really. I've "gone dark" a few times in my writing(not to be confused with sad) but it was hard,emotionally draining. I don't like admitting I have a dark side, much less exposing it. This post has been most enlightening! Seems most of life comes down to balance. Too much lemon or too much sugar and the tea is spoiled...I need to keep stretching and use less sugar! Thank you - great post!
cynthia fleetwood