Friday, June 12, 2020

Anger and Grief and Their Place in Writing (an Actual Technique I've Used)

During the height of the riots and fires, I sought ease in mind-candy movies.  One was Tootsie, from the eighties.  It kept me entertained, and although I moved on to another similar film very soon, one scene from Tootsie stayed in my mind, reminding me of a great writing technique I'd used during time of intensity and crisis.

Dustin Hoffman, who plays the lead, is teaching an acting class, trying to get one of his students to feel and act her rage.  She can't.  He provokes her, she gets mad, and the acting blooms.  

These past weeks, as I read the news about burning cities and beloved friends at risk, I felt outrage blooming.  A close friend had also recently died, very suddenly, so my anger was mixed with deep grief.  Some mornings it was hard to function with all these intense emotions.  But I thought about a moment in Tootsie, and I wondered if I might be able to channel some of the emotion into my currently slow-moving novel.  I certainly had it, but I didn't have a "sane" outlet for it.

So I sat down with the hardest task I could think of, a synopsis of the novel, and I bulleted my way through it, using my rage and grief as fuel.  It took me by surprise, how much energy there was.

One of my characters is recovering from a death and dealing with outrage over a betrayal--sounds familiar!--so I began writing her anger and grief into a scene.  Using some of the ideas from Writers Helping Writers (link here), rather than trying to avoid my feelings, I dove into them--for my character's sake.    

I also got a lot out of this link, from  ideas on how to write when frustrated, depressed, or angry.

No easy answers, obviously.  But I felt relief from writing along with my strong emotions this week.  Check out the ideas above and see if you find some as well.

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