‘Are you okay?’ asked hubby.
‘Because you look like you’ve been crying.’
He was right. I had. Not because anyone had upset me. Well, not anyone real anyway. My protagonist, Clare, had just had some really bad news and, the more I wrote about her reaction to it, the more I mirrored her reactions until I was reaching for the tissues, the paracetemol and the nearest teddy bear to hug!
Does anyone else do that? Sob at what they’ve written?
As a reader, if I’m reduced to tears, I feel like I’ve read a great book by a talented writer. Why? Because that writer has managed to make me care about the characters, become involved in their journey, and feel what they feel. Does that therefore make me a brilliant writer or is it more that I know my characters so well that I really do feel what they feel? I wish it was the former … but I suspect it’s the latter! Surely it’s a good start, though.
The same works for humour. I’ve had hubby appear in the office before when I’ve been giggling at a joke or a turn of phrase I’ve used. I feel even more guilty if I laugh at my own writing as that feels really egotistical. I have to tell myself that it’s not really me that’s funny but my characters. Then again, I am my characters. Aren’t I? Confusing isn’t it?
I once read an interview with J K Rowling and she said she sobbed for ages when she killed off Sirius Black in The Order of the Phoenix. I wasn’t very far into my writing journey at that time – certainly not at the laughing or crying stage – so I thought it a little strange. Now I completely understand. These characters become us and we them. The protagonist in the first book of my trilogy, Sarah, is modelled on me. My little brother read it and said it was very funny to read as he could spot phrases I use and things I do. The main protagonists in books two and three are completely fictional and, although I’ll always feel most closely aligned to Sarah as she was the start of this journey and is basically me, I’ve found myself “becoming” the other two as I’ve written from their point of view and have laughed and cried as them too. But I equally feel aligned to sub-characters and feel their hurt and pain too. Pretty emotional stuff this writing malarkey!
I’ve just come to the end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and have “won” it a day early (i.e. written 50,000 words or more in a month). It’s been an incredibly achievement for me as I’ve been working 7 days a week across 3 part-time jobs and job hunting for a permanent job. Some days I’ve felt too exhausted to write and other days, it’s the writing that’s exhausted me! I cheated a little with NaNo. You’re meant to start a new novel but I was partway through book 2 so I finished the first draft of that and started book 3. To me, it was about writing 50k words, not starting from scratch so I got what I wanted out of it. However, Clare’s story (novel 3) has been far more emotional then the others. Sarah’s is a really light-hearted story, Elise’s is a little darker, and Clare’s goes quite deep. I actually feel really ready for a break now as I feel like I’ve spent most of the last week in tears! If only shedding tears shed calories too; I’d have achieved my goal weight by now and solved another problem 😉
I’d love to hear about your views on laughing and/or crying at your own work or, if you’re not a writer, what makes you laugh and cry and do you see that as a mark of a good book?
Bye for now