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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » When you're deeply disturbed by what you just wrote....

   
Author Topic: When you're deeply disturbed by what you just wrote....
Jeraliey
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...how do you deal with it? Does it ever worry you?
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RFLong
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Quite often. Most of all though its when I don't notice and someone else comments.

I wrote a scene where my hero killed a villain by throwing him off the top of a Niagra-style waterfall. This villain was total scum - a dictator, a seriel rapist, a murderer but so slick that he continually got away with it (up to this point).

My husband read it and went "He just throws him over. That was too easy."

So I went back and rewrote. This being fantasy, magic was involved and it became an extremely hideous death. I handed it back.

My husband went pale, looked at me and said "oh, what have I married?" (He was joking, but still). And when I read it back myself I saw his point, though I didn't change anything.

Thing is, writing is about effecting people, about stirring up emotions and manipulating them with language. And not always for the better - we read horror and thrillers to be chilled or freaked or simply grossed out. If you can freak out someone who knows you better than anyone else with your work, that's a good thing. If you can freak yourself out, even better.

But then I have to tell myself that, don't I?

R

[This message has been edited by RFLong (edited April 29, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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Speaking as a nascent personal-growth coach, rather than a writer . . . go ahead and write it. You might not want to publish it! But if it's in there, refusing to look at it just gives it power.

We've got the same dark monsters in us that Hitler and Stalin did. We didn't put them in charge, like they did. But they're there.

I wish John Barnes had decided not to publish his when he wrote Kaleidoscope Century. There are some things I don't want in my imagination.


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xarius
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I've written somethings that disturb me, but I don't worry about it. I figure, better out on paper than swirling around in my head distracting me. I also know that my imagination tends to be on the dark side and there are some things I just don't want to think about. I find that writing fiction gives me the outlet I need and I can go about my life.

My family on the other hand...
Sometimes they wonder about me. I just tell them it comes from years of reading Stephen King.


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autumnmuse
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A lot of my inspiration for my stories comes from dark dreams. Some people call them nightmares, but usually I'm not scared by them. I just wake up and think, wow, that would make a good horror story.
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RavenStarr
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At most, I usually just laugh it off, and think, "damn, where'd that come from..."

Honestly, what most people would consider to be some of the more “tamer” stuff in a story is what disturbs me. Like where I have this scene with three different characters arguing... and it was so convincing, I was almost thinking I might be schizophrenic. It's now one of my favorite scenes I've ever written... at least for now...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Rust Hills (WRITING IN GENERAL AND THE SHORT STORY IN PARTICULAR) says that night dreams are a good source for stories. He also says that day dreams are the source of some of the poorest stories.
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Survivor
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It's interesting, because I was going to write something and I didn't because it was too disturbing. Not that I threw it away, I think I'll use it after all, just filtered through dialogue.
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NewsBys
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There was that time I wrote about the guy with a suicidal impulse. Everyone who happened to read it became very concerned about me.

I agree, readers sometimes have a hard time separating the actions of a character, from the actions a writer would actually take.

But I think if a writer thinks about it too much, it can hurt their writing.

Here is an example (sort of):

A friend of mine gave me Blow Fly, by Patricia Cornwall. I have only read a couple of her older books, So, I decided to give it a shot.

This one is written in a weird style I can only describe as present tense (with glimpses in the future) using 3rd Person Omni.
Basically, it reads like an all-knowing computer is rattling off a transcript of an unfortunate crime and its investigation.

As I read it, I wondered why she wrote it in such a weird and "distant" sounding format.

Then I got to the scenes where the "bad guys" do "very bad stuff". (Incidentally, in my opinion, these are the only scenes that have any "life" to them.)

It suddenly occurred to me that maybe she was afraid that if she wrote the scenes in a more personal, intimate format, people would realize that the "very bad stuff" was born out of her head. Then since it is such "very bad stuff," people would assume she was a "very bad person."

(Places a hand to her forehead and says, "Oh heaven forbid" in a distinctly southern drawl.)

It seemed almost, well, dishonest.

Now, I can't be even remotely sure that is what motivated her to write in such a weird format, but that is the impression I got, and the conclusion I came to.
Based on it, I don't think I'm going to read another of her books.


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Monolith
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Jeraily,

There are parts of me that would like to write a horror story because, I enjoy being scared, made to jump, and grossed out. I remember watching one of the "Friday the 13th" movies and saw how Jason killed one of the kids off and thought,"I never saw that before ," after he slammed the poor kid in the sleeping bag against a tree three times.

Sorry, but I guess I do have a morbid side, but that's from growing up on horror movies and the such.

The one thing that would get me is to have someone come up with something that I wouldn't, or even couldn't come up with.
But then again, I guess I just haven't wrote anything that dark before, but then again, I guess I could start. Bwahahahahahahahaha <evil laugh>.

But enough of my rambling, back to your forum.

-The Unmovable Monolith-


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dpatridge
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i LIKE it when i am deeply disturbed by what i am writing.

if it affects me too greatly i just take a break, go to something lighter for a while, maybe watch an episode or two of Love Hina, and then i return fresh and ready to tackle that horrendous scene anew.

if it disturbs the writer while writing it, it just may have more of a chance of disturbing the reader, and i WANT to disturb the reader, it is my goal to make him come to be so engrossed in my tale that he FEELS what is happening. and i do typically have a pretty dark imagination.


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Elylith
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People cringe when they have to read my work since it usually does tend to be morbid and what they deem as disturbed. So of course I have times when I think 'I must be insane', but isn't every writer? All those voices and characters in your head running around and demanding things- it gets hectic! You need and outlet and as long as you're being disturbed on paper rather than out in what everyone likes to call the 'Real World', then what does it matter?

There can't be light without dark, and I doubt some of the things we as writers come up with in our heads could really relate to what the real world has thrown at us. If you need some examples just think about the Holocaust and the Spanish Inquisition, two of the more well known. Now that was disturbing...

Here's a question: Is it more disturbing to be the person writing the material, or the person reading it and gaining some satisfaction and enjoyment from it? Because isn't that why we read in the first place? We want to be scared, amused, enlightened and entertained along with a host of other adjectives (I could give a lengthy list but I'm trying to wane myself off them- it's like my drug ;-)

So yes, we all write disturbing bits of prose from time to time, it's just when you let those things run rampant and consume you and you wander the streets in a maddened state that you have to worry.


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Jaina
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Can you imagine what people thought of me when I wrote "Wendell"? It's not really dark, but it could easily become very dark. And who in their right mind comes up with a character who is in high school and still has an imaginary friend--an imaginary boyfriend, at this point--who becomes so real that he starts to take over her life? When I told my mom about it, she was sincerely worried about me. Especially because I used a lot of my own high school experiences to make my character's real life seem more convincing.

But what can I do? The story needed to be written, and now it's the closest thing I have to a publishable work. Give the ending another rewrite, and I'm sending it out. So sometimes that stuff that scares you is the best stuff you've got.


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limo
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I'm with the better out than in team. It's fun to shock people - especially when they think you're such a nice girl. Just write. At the end of the day a good story is a good story and if it's real to the characters then it works. I don't know if any of you have read Once Were Warriors (it's a film as well) but parts of that are so deeply disturbing that it is physically painful. But it works because it is true to the story.
li

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Survivor
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You mean We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, right?

I'm a better in than out person, I guess. But that's because I consider things like the Inquisition and the Holocaust about par for human behavior. The things I'm able to imagine don't scare me, but I sure as hell don't want to let you know about them if you haven't come up with it on your own.

I even try to stay away from stuff that you have come up with on your own, if it hasn't spread too widely for me to be making a difference.


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Shendülféa
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I might not ever be shocked by what I write, but my mom certainly is. It's kinda funny, I think. I told her once about my shethdyn story, being sure to include all the bloody details in it. Well, when I was done, she gave me the LOOK and said, "That's disgusting. You don't need to put all those things in there. Why don't you change it and make it a little bit less gory?"

I always reply, "Because the violence serves to underscore a specific theme!"

She doesn't believe me. That, or she says, "Isn't there a way you could take out the violence and still have the same thing?"

I just shake my head and say, "Yeah...but then my point isn't as strong."

The debate goes on for awhile. I never do end up changing anything, though.


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Jaina
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Moms are wonderful people, but they aren't the best critiquers in the world. Either they love it and don't give a word of useful feedback, or they are suddenly afraid that you've snapped and are looking to stick you in therapy. My mom doesn't get to read my stuff until it gets published and I don't have control over it anymore... and maybe not even then, if I can manage it.
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autumnmuse
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I feel you. My mom and dad have never cared about the things I'm passionate about, and never encouraged me in them. In fact, they forbade many of the things that I loved as a child, such as acting. So as far as my writing goes, the first story of mine that my parents have read is one that has already been accepted for publication, so I don't have to worry about them shooting me down.
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wbriggs
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About dreams & daydreams: I rarely use night dreams. I've done it twice. Each time I thought the story was sort of weak. One got me professional rates for the first time ever --!

Daydreams: isn't that where all our stories come from?


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FreyasFriend
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Write down your demons and vilianous, even hideous characters. If they fit, use them. If they don't, print out what you have written and file it away for another day when it might be useful in another story. But above all, be honest with your characters. Let them have their lives. Much of what is called writer's block comes from being dishonest with ourselves and our characters. And don't worry about what others think. After all, writers tend to be socially inappropriate. Goes with the turf. If a story is in there, let it out - no matter how dark it may be.
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wbriggs
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There was a Twilight Zone. A writer was being pursued by evil-looking trolls no one else could see. Eventually, when he was alone, they got in, and surrounded him.

"What do you _want_?" he screamed.

They said, "Write about us!"


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Rust Hills doesn't like daydreams because they are "wish fulfillment" and often quite lame or silly. "Wouldn't it be nice if...?" kinds of things. They don't tend to have any real challenges or conflicts or consequences.

Night dreams come from the unconscious and are full of dark, angsty (what a word!--it's mine, don't blame it on Hills) kinds of things that have to be dealt with and overcome. Much more interesting and challenging.


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Survivor
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Daydreams can be full of conflict, if you're that sort of person. Of course we've all seen the "wish fulfillment" story where people's wishes turn out to have unpleasent implications. It can be done well, though.

I've read a number of really fun stories that use God's POV, at least in passing, and they all have to deal with the question of "should" as opposed to "can". If you're not particularly driven by "can", then your daydreams are probably more interesting than your night dreams.

Certainly, I find that's true of my own dreams. My night dreams lack any deep conflict. No matter what happens, my superpowers (including a number of abilities I don't posses in real life) invariably save the day. Fun, but boring as a source of story ideas. While in my daydreams, I'm constantly confronted by the issue of consequences. You can have X, but there's a price....


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Survivor
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It's funny, because this morning I woke up right after I put on my coat but before I busted out my superpowers. So now I'm feeling kind of disappointed, since I didn't get to see what I was going to do.
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Debbborra
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You know we all have thoughts we're not proud of. Part of being human. Sometimes we're ugly. The thing is, we learn early that thinking something and expressing it, are two different things. When we write why not tap into that? It's compelling. It evokes a reaction from the reader. It can be powerful, because as ugly as our thoughts can be others' can be also.

This stuff that's downright sick, and makes you wonder how you could come up with something so awful, no, they're nothing wrong with you. You've probably been to the movies or watched the news at some point, and yes, it's damaged you.


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whataboutbob85
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I'm sorry I missed this topic before. I remember once, I was probaby only in 4th grade, people were already starting to talk about my developing writing skills and what an imagination I had. So my teacher commissioned me to write a short story for the class. What I wrote that day, and I still have it, is disturbing to me even to this day. I won't go into the gory details, but you would never hear anything like that coming out of most 4th grader's mouths. And I still write things that disturb me to this day. It's not something you can control, it's part of your personality, however well hidden, whether you like it or not. It doesn't have to control you, it doesn't make you a bad person, it just means that because you bury those thoughts and don't act on them, that you need a new outlet for them and they come out in your writing. The people who do act on these thoughts, are ones who don't have an outlet for them. I actually wrote an essay about this topic a while back. If anyone would like a copy, just email me and I will send it to you. whataboutbob85@hotmail.com
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