Friday, January 17, 2014

How Writers Reveal a Character through "Container"--The Environment of a Story

A memoirist was trying to write about the sadness she felt at her father’s death.  Her writer’s group gave her unexpected feedback:  while it was clear she was very sad, when they heard her speak of his death, her feelings on the page were abstract, hard to really grasp. 

“They don’t feel any of the sadness I feel,” she told me.  She cried when she wrote, so this confused her.  

When I read the chapter in our next online class together, I too noticed how distant the writing felt.  My take-away was an almost-intellectual sorrow, a wistfulness, rather than any strong emotion.

A very intelligent woman, this writer worked as a psychologist.  She knew people, she understood how they ticked.  But she hid her “character,” herself, behind her thoughtful prose, rather than revealing it.