Saturday, May 9, 2009

Deepen your stories today

(excerpts from an article written by Mary DeMuth for The Writer, Feb. ’09 by permission from the author) For more information on the author’s book mentoring program, click on

William Wordsworth wrote, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” Wordsworth’s quote rings true for me as a parenting author. I splay my heart on the pages of my books, exploring my inadequacies, embracing little parenting triumphs. It makes sense. The way to a nonfiction reader’s heart is an author’s vulnerability, her ability to reveal emotional depth. Can the same be said for fiction? A resounding yes.

How do you harness emotional depth? Is it possible to write stories that suck readers in, enamoring them of characters who resonate? Absolutely.

1. Write truth from the inside out
Writing prose that does not have your heart in it becomes mechanically correct but bereft of soul. It becomes outside-in writing. Reveal secrets on the page of a journal, daring to write the truth. Write it to yourself, about yourself, about the world you live in. In the safe haven of a blank notebook, explore your passions.

2. Translate your emotional experiences
It’s one thing to explore your own interior; it’s another to use your emotions to build a character. But it must be done. Pull out the journal where you’ve bled some truth. Then, find a character in your story that lacks depth or verve and begin to connect her flatness to the richness of your current struggle. Free-write the character into a scene until you sense our own emotions surfacing.

3. Get out in the world
Writing is a solitary art. We seldom venture out of the land of people. But too much solitude makes our novels suffer. We need to put down our journal pen, abandon the blinking curser, and rub shoulders with people To hear bantering. To risk ourselves in relationships. To once again be reminded of the astounding beauty of humanity alongside its depravity.

You’ve heard the mantra: Show, don’t tell. Perhaps the secret to showing is actually living your own stories well.
Footnote from Tom Mach:
Ms. DeMuth brings up an important point about the necessity of showing and not telling. Our written words should project a strong mental and emotional image to the reader, getting her involved to the point where she resonates with the character because the character has become a living, breathing human being. I’ve had that experience as a writer myself when I wrote Sissy! and All Parts Together. My character, Jessica Radford, in both of my novels still haunts me today. She’s real.

1 comment:

Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks for posting this, Tom!