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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb 1st-IWSG- Soul Surfer or Soul Sucker

  Insecure Writers Support Group conceived and birthed by Alex J Cavanaugh- More about it or sign up here.

Most of us have probably read a short story or novel at some time and after we've finished thought, 'well that's an hour (or two or day) that I'm not going to get back.' I don't know how many of you have seen Soul Surfer (yea, the one about the girl where the shark bites off her arm). We watched it for our family movie the other night. I think I always pay a bit more attention when I know something is based on a true story. Which is ironic since I write fiction. But it does make you wonder which parts are true and which things are embellished or just left out. We all will have our different opinions that may change with age. For instance, my son who is 7 had a hard time believing she really gave her surf boards away to a couple of kids asking for autographs.

As for me, my skepticism came with the presentation that she didn't lash out at anyone. We're talking a teenager here who loses her arm. They show a couple of scenes where she is sad, have a story line where she almost gives up but no anger, at least no Captain Dan on the ship screaming with God moment. What she does have is passion for her sport. The story left me feeling, as it was intended to, inspired, awed, and wanting to feel like I could do the same thing. Except that I've never stood on a surf board in my life so figuratively, people, figuratively.

Anyhow, as so many things do, it left me thinking about my writing. Mostly, when I'm writing, I'm just thinking about entertaining. I want to be able to sweep someone into a story and have them want to stay until they find out how the story ends. I don't think much about inspiring people. Perhaps this has something to do with being a pantser, in that I don't really know where the story is going until it is over. But rarely, when I read back through, do I think 'Yes, someone reading this will come away a better person for it.' So does that reduce me to a hack horror film writer who only wants a reaction? No offense intended for those writers since they are not the ones writing about insecurity on their blogs. Unless, of course, I've not visited that one yet.

So I am sitting with myself and wondering, what am I trying to do with these hours I spend writing, editing, and submitting? I hope some of the things I've written make people think. I read a book about creating short stories and one of the pieces of advice it gave was to write down on index cards issues that you are passionate about. It suggested that all of your stories should contain one of those issues in some way. So, am I selling myself or readers short if I write a fluff piece? I guess in the end, my questions are, what if I just want to give someone a bit of escapism? Does that make me shallow? I already know my writing is not such as to become a literary great so am I being lazy to not push for that or is it good to know your limits?

17 comments:

  1. Knowing your limits defines who you are. I love writing because of escapism. I like the fluff, but editing becomes horrendous when I have to cut the fluffy-fluff :)
    I don't think it's shallow. You're giving others a way of escaping from perhaps a monotone life they're stuck in. That, can be powerful and it can give hope and aspiration to those who can't see it in their life.

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    1. Thanks Marta, you're right sometimes it is hard to let go of that fluff-fluff. My kids have started calling overweight people "fluffy" (only when there is a reason to describe someone) not sure where they heard that but it does make me think about wanting my writing to be in good shape and not to look like it has sat on the couch eating potato chips for too long.

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  2. I agree with Marta. Escaping is fantastic. And I doubt that people reading your work think there's nothing of substance in it. People find meaning in things that have none all the time.

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    1. Good point, Rena. Although I have to admit I hated it in literature class when I would have enjoyed a great story and then had to take it apart for symbolism.

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  3. Crap, now I feel shallow, as I wrote mostly to entertain.
    Well, not totally. I guess I did show how it's possible for anyone to become a better person. The human condition is rather fascinating...

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    1. Ha!! I think your dedication to writing and blogging spits into the eye of that shallow idea. That human condition or the universal story as the writer of the plot whisperer calls it, is what makes what we do resonate.

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  4. I write to escape and I write because it inspires so many different parts of my life. I can't imagine my life without it. And I"m a little bit of a perfectionist, but I like that as a writer because the more I know, the more I know I can learn.

    Great post - new follower :)

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    1. Thanks for following Tasha. I've been enjoying your blog as well. I love the quote on your group blog about thinking through your fingers too.

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  5. I always hope my readers will find a gem in my writing somewhere. For me every piece of writing holds that gem as long as it's written well. I love the escapism too. :)

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    1. Joanne,
      the "written well" part is the thing that always worries me which I guess is why I try to escape :). Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Your insecurity is quite deep. I think we all want our stories to resonate long after the reading is over. I've read that humans are all storytellers and we're wired to want to share. I believe it. I'm sure things you've written have struck other people deeply. Remember that guy I work with that kept harassing me to tell me more about The Sixth Trial. I mean, you don't do that if you aren't moved on a pretty deep level.

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    1. Thanks Rusty, that story (the one about your co-worker not the one I actually wrote) is one I pull out on rainy days and wrap around myself. Never met him but I love that guy.

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  7. Your post hit a few of my buttons. I go wild when someone mentions "literary". I roll my eyes, point an index finger at my mouth, and make all sorts of gagging sounds. Is that shallow? Probably. Immature? No doubt, but like you I write to entertain. The real world is filled with tragedy, and there is already a long line of people offering advice on how to be better than we are.

    That's not me. I write to entertain. I want my stories to wrap the reader in a make believe world that makes sense. (It's fiction!) If I make them smile or cause a sniffle or tear in a tender moment, even better. I refuse to suck one precious minute of life from a reader, because that's what I want for myself.

    Happy writing!

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    1. Anne, you described how I feel perfectly. You should be a writer. Oh wait... I've got your Piedmont Island book on my to be ordered list. I can't wait to be wrapped in some make believe.

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  8. All you can do is your best, which will change day to day. Write what you want to write, because if you don't like your work, how will others? And just because you feel you won't ever top the literary world, doesn't mean you can't perform at your highest level.

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  9. As a reader, I want all the books. Books that make me think for days, books that make me laugh, books that educate, books that entertain ... thank goodness there are different people to write all these different types of books :-)

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