If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
Paulo Coelho offers wise words in terms of life and for writers seeking a way to transfer writing ideas from the head to a page. This quote, from The Alchemist, sheds unique light on a question every artist asks: What if the thoughts in my head don’t translate to the proper medium?
The first step to success is embracing a single idea that’s floating around your noggin. But what happens when you can’t figure out a way to bring your creative writing ideas to life? What is it that prevents people from spilling their guts and developing realistic characters or scenes that connect with others on an emotional level? I can think of three reasons:
- Fear of failure
- Lack of effort
- Disconnection with reality
Fear of failure begins the tumble towards shoving your idea in a vault, but these tips can help you get past those fears. Everyone occasionally lacks effort. It’s human nature to crave two Chipotle burritos and lounge instead of writing for hours. Crushing a lack of effort takes hard work and habit forming activities such as reading books, taking classes and networking with others.
Success comes from hard work and the accumulation of small numbers.
What about the disconnection with reality? Artists like to think they know everything about everything, but the truth is that a story’s characters must connect on an emotional level to have an effect, and the idea of connecting with every single reader is intimidating.
I have a unique solution to this problem. Paulo Coelho speaks about the anger we build when others want us to be someone else. Instead of assuming everything, take a step back.
Using Differences to Learn More About Ourselves
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A common technique to learn about dialogue is listening into conversations—which works nicely—but I encourage you to find a location or situation you hate or feel uncomfortable around.
Maybe your family gets on your nerves during get-togethers or your roommate never takes out the trash when you ask. Maybe a parent at your child’s school fails to discipline his child when the kid clearly picks on others. Whatever your frustrating situation, step back far enough so you can’t hear any words.
Take your creative writing idea and surround your foe inside it. Watch as they react to the people and situations around them.
Let’s say you have an idea for a story about a depressed high school student who realizes he has powers to make teachers disappear. Settle in and observe the people who rub you the wrong way. Put them in your story idea, and see how it helps you transfer situations and emotions to the page.
Maybe the slacker dad you come across everyday is the father of your magical teen. Does he yell at the kid after school? Does he look stressed out? Maybe he keeps his hands in his pockets and lets the kid do whatever he wants. What’s going through the father’s head that makes him so passive? Did his wife leave him? Is there trouble at work?
The Power of Sympathy
Watching someone who frustrates you and putting them in a situation helps build sympathy—even for a person who might make you want to throw a fit when hearing them speak. Instead of absorbing dialogue you receive the subtleties of their movements—two fingers pressed to the eyes or rapid blinking. You feel and smell what that person experiences. You hear the charge of the engine as the father and son drive out of the parking lot.
I often feel that our disconnection with situations and people we don’t enjoy attribute to weak characters or poor development. We have a tendency to judge others and write flat characters or simply have trouble coming up with anything at all.
Your villain isn’t always someone else’s villain. The power of stepping back and sympathizing for those we judge creates strength in stories and life.
Let me know in comments what you think about this method. Are there any other techniques you use to bring your creative writing ideas to life and connect with readers on an emotional level?