A hangover from my days as a researcher and writer for academic publications is the fact that your voice doesn’t count. On the other hand, creative writing is all about your own voice. As an academic writer your responsibility is to prove something or to develop a “thesis”. This is achieved through reasoning and providing evidence by referencing the research of others. Conducting your own research will further aid your objective of proving or refuting a hypothesis.
Words associated with academic writing are objective, focused, conservative and neutral to name but a few. As a writer your opinion doesn’t count either; your ability to construct arguments do. Statements without the support of evidence will never reach the stage of publication. Furthermore, explicit use of emotional language is equally a taboo in academic writing, not to mention the use of expletives! I am also conscious that my upbringing to abide by the rules of society to be polite and to mind my Ps and Qs are also factors influencing my style of writing. An understanding of, and abiding by the social graces of the culture in which you find yourself, is crucial if you are interested in developing meaningful relationships in that culture. Subconsciously I continue to censor my voice so as not to offend the eventual readers of my book by being perceived as too emotional or controversial.
However, my tribute to Eugene and Pieter is unashamedly emotional; it cannot be anything other. It was therefore with great relief when I came across the blog of Jamie Lee Wallace of @suddenlyjamie, and her recent posting entitled, Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Embrace your Darker Side. Creative writing is dependent on the emotions and passions of the writer. After all, it is the deeply held emotions about a particular subject that spurs us on to write about it. If I had not felt passionate and deeply touched by the journey Eugene endured through living with terminal cancer or the poignant impact of Pieter’s selfless love and support to Eugene, I would not have embarked on the journey of writing their tribute in the first place. And yes, their lives were interspersed with prejudice being a gay couple and were significantly influenced by the society in which they lived and loved. Writing about these issues will be controversial and will no doubt evoke strong emotions in others.
Readers are attracted not only to what we write, but also how we write. The how is dependent on the passion we bring to the particular subject or issue. The tension we create through the use of emotions, conflict and controversy is what attracts readers to our writing. Writing that inspires, captivating the imagination of the reader, requires writers to embrace and acknowledge their darker side. Writers need to dive into the deep, dark waters where emotions live. Only then will they be able to take the reader on the emotional journey of the characters, whether they are fictional or real.
It takes courage to open the Pandora’s box, especially if this darker side has been kept in check for a long time. I am also aware that the pendulum shouldn’t swing too far to the other side. The use of emotion and passion should be used when appropriate and not just for its own sake. It is a fine balance to maintain and one way of achieving this is to become conscious of emotions as they surface. The writer needs to feel the emotions in order to stimulate the same emotions within their readers.
Through emotions the reader is drawn into another world and for a brief period of time they become someone other than who they are, sharing experiences that are different from their real world. For a few hours the fictional world becomes real. The use of emotions allows the reader to share the adventures of the characters in the book. Although the experiences may be fictional, the emotions are not.
Again I return to the benefit of building an intimate relationship with my muse. It is she that will provide me with the route into my emotions, allowing the characters of Eugene and Pieter to become vivid and alive to the reader.