Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blogging is a Conversation

Sometimes I wonder why I bother with blogs. It's not that I don't enjoy it--I really do--but it's also a time suck, and between job, life, and writing, I've got little enough time as it is. Currently, writing this blog post is taking the place of opening up my manuscript and taking another stab at that difficult scene I've been struggling over.

But, blogging has it's rewards. And the greatest one, in my opinion, is opening up conversation with writers.

First, there's the interesting back and forth between posts and comments. I love reading your comments--every single one. If you leave me a link, I click on it. Even if I don't comment back to your comment (it started feeling a bit repetitive to me--I didn't think I was really contributing when all I had to say was "I agree!" "LOL!" or "ditto!"), I feel as if I am opening up dialog with a post, and that we're striking up at least a coffee-house conversation here.

Not only that, but I've found that commenting on other's posts have helped me grow as a writer, too. Take, for example, KLo's recent post about writing anger. When I first read it, my initial response was "Yup! I agree! Writing anger is hard!" But then I got to thinking (in part from reading the other comments to the post). Why is writing anger so hard? It's something I struggle with. I think I've written a character in a very real, emotionally raw, angry state, but my beta readers always say "Why isn't this character angier?" (Robyn, I'm looking at you! ;)

By thinking about KLo's post a little more, and by writing out a response--which forces you to come up with something more than just thinking "Yup! I agree!"--I was able to figure out my own source of problems when writing anger. The thing is, I'm naturally a very loud, passionate person. I easily flip emotions, and I don't hide any of them. But I'm rarely truly angry. I can really only think of less than ten times in my entire life that I've been well and truly mad.

I think because I'm so loud, chaotic, and emotionally bare in my everyday life, my anger comes forth in a very different way. The last time I was mad was at a class (the only class I've ever been mad at in five years of teaching). It was a rude class to start with, but we'd just begun the Holocaust and one of the kids made a very disrespectful "joke" about Jews.

I did not yell. I did not scream.

My voice dropped to a low whisper.

This class, which would Never. Shut. Up. fell instantly silent. Every head watched me. I did not move. I stood in front of the classroom and enumerated the reasons why such a joke was so inappropriate and why I would never tolerate that sort of thing again. I did not once change the tone or volume of my voice.

That class was so terrified, it didn't talk for a week. Two years later, and those sophomores are now seniors--and they STILL talk about that time I got mad.

But, in responding to KLo's blog post (see? I can totally get back on topic.), I was able to realize that my sort of cold, hard anger isn't the normal sort of anger. On the page, when my characters get mad, they don't show a lot of reaction--because when I get mad, I don't show a lot of reaction. But I--and my characters--are seething inside. Problem is, although I know my characters are seething on the inside, the reader doesn't.

As a writer, I've got to push my characters into more violent anger--whether I show it internally or externally, I've got to show it.

And that's not a realization I think I'd have come to if it weren't for this whole coffee-house conversation we've got going on with our blogs. So thank you, all of you, for your wildly wonderful blogs!
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