Writing, a Delicate Dance


Blurred Reality is a short story that demanded more than usual. So, please allow me a moment of reflection before I send it out.

Short stories are like that. Different from novels — works that require personal bits but can spin into something else fifty or a hundred pages later — short stories demand more. To me, they demand more personal experiences, more understanding, more emotion.  

They demand putting oneself out there. And that can be difficult because it’s counter intuitive. We’re programmed not to expose our own experiences or those of our family members. Our psychological defense mechanisms are in place to keep us from doing exactly that.

But as an avid reader, I know full engagement is demanded. As a reader, I don’t want to be protected. I want to be transported, and the author doesn’t get to choose if I like where I’m going or not. Or at least that’s the illusion.

Emotional writing that doesn’t go there comes out as unnatural. Fake. And readers pick up on it, don’t they? They also pick up on over sharing, too much drama, so it’s all a delicate dance where every step looks easy, but it was meticulously studied and planned and hopefully understood.

Donald Maass advises that we mine our own experiences as writers. So, in the end, style or voice, those celebrated terms we hear so much about, boil down to psychology. Crazy, I know.

What do you think, dear blogging friend? Have you ever taken a big breath and jumped?


Image: thefivepointstar.com

17 responses to “Writing, a Delicate Dance

  1. I haven’t attempted short stories. They’re definitely more difficult to write than novels. I admire short story writers, and have loved yours that I’ve read, Sylvia! You have the talent for it. :-)

  2. As you know, I only write short stories. The ones that I have published were about rescuing my cat and rescuing a friend’s cat. My other stories, as you know are memoir and very personal. For some weird reason, not seeing my audience feels like I have a wall up between them and me. I can’t see them so I’m not afraid of writing some pretty personal things… maybe too personal… especially during the A to Z Challenge.

    To me, I want a can opener so the reader can see inside of me… my heart. I guess I have more work to do!

  3. Short stories are hard. I’ve tried a couple, and they didn’t go well. Good for you on jumping in. Yes, definitely take some time away from it. You probably need a bit of distance.

  4. I think it depends on the short story. The few I’ve done have been relatively light, humorous things while my novels are actually the emotionally challenging ones, where I do have to put myself out there more (and write things some readers may wish unwritten).

  5. Thanks Silvia – an excellent reminder to be real and mine our own experiences, however hard it may be! Have a lovely weekend and I hope the fires are under control?

  6. I’m sure we put at least a little of ourselves into everything we write. As you say, it’s a matter of balance, striking the right tone – if what we put of ourselves can resonate more widely, then we may have succeeded. If it remains a private angst that doesn’t speak to others, then we haven’t. Easy to say, not so easy to do!

  7. Hi Silvia – I wouldn’t like to put too much, if any, personal stuff out … life was/is complicated … but I’d like to try to write a memoir type story line – which I’m going to try later this year via a group. They’ll be on normal wave length – I’ll be doing my thing … bloggers would understand probably .. still we’ll see.

    Not sure I could do short stories though – but I guess perhaps sometime … well done to continuing/setting out on that journey … cheers Hilary

  8. Good advice, Silvia. Yes, I have stepped over the edge — in my blog and my two books. Doing so requires maintaining a precarious balance: over the edge but within bounds — stepping over the edge and being a bit subjective, too; that’s where the writer gets at the truth that readers want to recognize within themselves. I’ve written short stories, too, and am working on a couple novels, currently. Short stories require that the author be concise — it’s a small yard to play in. In novel writing I feel a bit more leeway, but not too much. Regardless, you know what the Ephrons say — “Everything is copy.” Author Thomas Wolfe is a perfect example of making use of that everything and to the greatest — vastest, poetic — detail. Have you seen the movie “Genius” yet? If not, I highly recommend it.

    Thanks for writing this thoughtful truth about writers and writing.

  9. My book chapters are self-contained, sort of vinettes and for a while I tried to mask them as short stories :) Needless to say I didn’t get anywhere with that strategy. It’s a different beast. Love them, but it’s not my thing. Stopped trying :) Maybe one day I’ll learn how to do them and do them properly.

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