Today, I’m going to share a bit of advice that author Bryan Davis once shared with me. If you feel like something is missing in your writing even after struggling to perfect technique, maybe this post will answer your question.
1.) Bryan Davis’s Advice - As a young writer facing the crisis outlined in my first paragraph, I sent Bryan Davis a message asking for help. He replied back with a single bit of advice that I’ve never forgotten. He said (and this is a rough paraphrase):
“Write what you are passionate about. If you are passionate about your story, that passion will be sensed by your readers and will draw them even more into your story.”
Talk about an eye-opener!
As I’ve dabbled in Creative Writing classes in college, my professor said something that drilled this in even more. He advised me to me read John Gardner’s book, “On Becoming a Novelist.” While my professor was explaining who Gardner was, I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d never heard of such a great writer…until my professor reached his last two sentences.
This is what I was told about Gardner:
This is what I was told about Gardner:
“He was a flawless writer and a meticulous editor. When you read John Gardner, you cannot find a single sentence that is flawed. His writing was perfect…and the most boring that you’ll ever read. If one could combine the technical soundness of Gardner with the thrilling suspense of Stephen King, that one would be a great writer.”
There it is again, although not as obvious: passion. This is the thing that Gardner’s fiction lacked according to my professor.
If you’re wondering if passion is truly necessary in writing fiction, then ask yourself this: if you are not passionate about your story, then why should anybody else be?
2.) Passion, where does it come from? - When contemplating this subject, I tend to first picture passion as being as elusive to find as the Muse. Then, I realize that unadulterated passion is more a part of my life than writing. (Don’t be too shocked at that statement!)
You see, the thing I’m most passionate about doesn’t even involve stories; it involves late summer nights, a lot of sweat, and tears of both sorrow and happiness. The greatest passion that God has given me comes from being a Camp Counselor and it is the passion for reaching out to young girls, who have no one else to talk to, to draw them closer to our Savior. When I think about my younger friends and the kind of garbage that they have to go through, I feel as if my blood surges. There are few things that I would not do to help them.
Stop for just a moment and think about what you’re most passionate about. It doesn’t have to be something grand and noble. Even pain at a person lost in your life can be counted as passion; after all, you are passionate about their memories, right?
So how does passion for something that’s not related to writing help you put passion in your writing?
3.) Transferring Passion into Your Writing - For me, it’s easy. Two summers ago, I had an epiphany concerning my camp girls. While listening to them talk about the very adult-like troubles they faced in situations, I realized that all across America there are young children just like my girls. They go through trouble with nobody to talk to them. In some cases, they go through trouble without feeling as if anybody even cares about them.
When I realized this, it revolutionized my writing. I went from writing whatever struck my fancy to developing a mission statement. I now write “real stories” that can speak to young adults who have very real problems. In essence, my passion for helping my Camp girls transferred into a passion for writing stories that those same girls could relate to.
That’s all good and well, but how does that help somebody whose primary passion is sports, or a relationship?
1.) Let your passion for whatever it is inspire you and your character - This doesn’t mean that you have to write sports stories if that’s your other-life passion. Let your love shine through in some of your characters, or think about the kind of character traits you often see when doing whatever. If you’re passionate about your close-knit family, consider portraying a family group of characters that way. If you can’t live without watching football every weekend, remember this and let a character also feel this addiction.
2.) Reflect for a moment on something that you’re passionate about - Pay attention to that thrill when you identify something as being important. This is how you want to feel when you’re writing or editing your story. Every now and then, stop your work and recreate that feel. Ask yourself: am I passionate about these characters, about this plot-line, about what this story is about?
3.) Remember to have fun - If you’re passionate about something, you’re going to enjoy working on it. It follows that if you’re not having fun while writing, then you’re doing something wrong. Relax a little bit, and make sure you have fun crafting your story.
4.) Write something that matters to you - Think about all your favorite books. Even if it’s a fantasy, then chances are that your favorite book says something about what matters to you. Learn to identify why that book matters to you; is it because of who the characters are, or because of a theme that runs strongly through the book?
Remember, a writer who is passionate about his work is one that has a reason to write. What’s your reason?
Lauren Claire is a young writer with a passion for God, life, and her young friends. She knows that there are many kids in the world that have nobody to talk to about the problems they face, so she strives to write real stories they can identify with. When she's not writing, Lauren is busy with College, Camp ministries, and going on adventures.
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