There is good and there is evil in the world. One cannot survive without the other, and although we all wish good to triumph, we relish exhilaration within the mouth of evil.
Harnessing the power of your Emotions
By: Jeffrey B. Allen, July 5th, 2009
I am the author of GoneAway Into the Land. I struggled with my emotions in order to write many of the threads I eventually placed within the storyline of GoneAway. But I am glad I did not shrink from the task. The final outcome was well worth it.
I am going to begin this article with a quote from perhaps the greatest American writer to ever live, Earnest Hemingway. I am far from alone in my belief that he possessed the gift of genius when it came to weaving his life, beliefs and emotions into stories that became greater and more powerful than he could ever have imagined. Hemmingway gave everything of himself, and when it was all used up he came to the sad realization that he was no longer the man he once knew. He was no longer Earnest Hemingway. He had fallen into a deep depression. So, left without a shred of hope, after the medical technology of his day failed to lift his spirits, he stuck the barrel of a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. What he really did on that fateful day was to consummate his gift to humanity, a gift of adventure, laughter, and tears, scrawled, as instinctively as a robin builds a nest, upon the pages of his novels and short stories. What he says in his prerecorded speech to the Nobel Administrators is as moving as it is terrifying to all who call themselves writers. The question is, if we are to follow his example by reaching far within ourselves in order to write what has never been written before, will we one day pour the last ounce of life from our soul as he did? Not very likely, yet to strive to open ourselves, to reveal the darkness of our emotions, and then to intertwined those feelings into our stories is something a good writer should strive to do, and every great writer will do without a thought.
Earnest Hemingway's prerecorded speech.
"Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed. How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him."
Emotions are buried under the thin skin of the writer, emotions unknown to the writer and emotions aching for a way to express themselves, to be felt and heard. I believe writing is a form of self evaluation. It is a therapy of sorts, but so are all forms of artistic expression. There is a need for artists to expose themselves through their medium. You may wonder why, but to me it is simple. Authors, like painters, sculptures, or actors, want to stir the emotions in others. An author who writes romance or an author who writes horror, both wish upon their audience the same thing, to invoke a reaction.
My first novel, GoneAway Into the Land, is a complex tale of reconciliation told from the point of view of a twelve year old boy. Dark thoughts are common in boys of that age, especially if they are traumatized. On the other hand, a journey into a place where a young boy would fantasize about killing his father would have to be taken from the context of what the boy is familiar with, and what he loves and hates the most. In John's case, he loved powerful machines such as locomotives, and he loved candy, as most children his age do, and he adored his mother, and his sister Marny. But most of all, he hated his father, and rightly so. His father was a nasty beast, abusive, self absorbed, and embittered by having been disfellowed from his community of religious fanatics.
I was forced to confront many of my demons while writing GoneAway. I found places inside myself I did not want to go, and I wrote upon the pages descriptions I was not sure would be understood by my family. In the final analysis, GoneAway is a story of hope. Let it be known that I was not abused in my life as John was, and I did not name my own father a beast. What I did do was to draw upon pleasant and unpleasant periods of my childhood and my adult life to develop the threads within the story. I drew on philosophical and historical knowledge, and I also spent many hours researching mythology and biblical facts and fables, as well as ancient history to bring to life the diversity of the story. Then I used my ability as a writer to cause the many threads of GoneAway to be cohesive for my reader.
Emotions associated with envy, hardship, trauma, triumphs, love, hate, lust, adventure, and guilt, all combine with a continual building of one's knowledge base. This is essential to good writing. Consequently, a good writer must be able to weave those emotions into a cohesive story. Even the simplest of children's stories involve sometimes strong emotions. It is the same with the most abstract of science fiction and fantasy novels. They too need human emotions to give the reader a connection.
The only place I was able to find the emotional balance for my hero was deep within my psyche. Not surprisingly, the only place I was able to pull from to create the worst of all villains came out of the dark depths of my soul followed, fortunately or unfortunately, by every one of my demons.
There is good and there is evil in the world. One cannot survive without the other, and although we all wish good to triumph, we relish the exhilaration within the mouth of evil. Laugh when your character laughs, scream when your character screams, and cry when your character cries, and your reader will feel the same emotion while they are reading your story as you did while you were writing it.
Jeffrey B. Allen