Can a person be too nice? Obviously they can. Obviously people who read my stuff think I write “too nice” because I’ve been told that very fact a lot — so many times, in fact, that I can no longer ignore it. I’ve thought about this over the last few days and I have come up with two reasons:
1. I started writing because I was desperately unhappy, so I placed myself (in the form of the main female character) in nice surroundings with nice people, and I always aimed for “happily ever after” because that is what I wanted for myself.
2. In real life I’m a passive person. I’m quiet and shy. I avoid large gatherings (like parties), conflict, “in your face” situations, being the centre of attention and generally do NOT know how to let my hair down. I don’t swear, drink or smoke. I’ve never seen illegal drugs of any description. I’m the person on the outside of a group looking in…listening, but rarely contributing…because that’s where I feel comfortable as I’m a bit of a loner.
I’ve been told numerous times that I’m trying to write in the wrong genre – romance is where I should be at (that’s what I’m told). But…romance can also be a problem with me, because I don’t feel comfortable writing erotic scenes, so any romance I write will be quite bland. With this in mind, I chose to write fantasy with a strong romance thread. Many of the books I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of fantasy, haven’t had one swear word or sex scene in them…and they lean towards “happily ever after” too.
That means part of the problem has been solved. I can write romantic fantasy, but that doesn’t solve the other part of the problem. My writing isn’t strong enough. Why is that? I believe it’s because of the person I am. In fact, I know that’s the reason. I try to write aggressive characters, but I’m not that type of person so how can I do the character justice? And how can I possibly know what an aggressive or a confident person would say in any given situation when I’ve never experienced it myself? In my opinion, it would be easier for an assertive person to write from a non-assertive view point than the other way around. So what can be done about it? If you’re waiting for me to answer that question, you will be disappointed, because I honestly don’t know. I need help with that one. How can I strengthen my writing?
Now, let’s turn what I’ve said in this post to one of my writing projects – Mirror Image, which is NOT romantic fantasy – far from it!
Mirror Image is a project I believe in…totally! I know, without doubt, that if I’m going to get published, this is the project that will do it for me. But…will my writing do it justice? Can I create the words necessary to make the manuscript as strong as the theme and storyline require?
The reader I’ve given the manuscript to has come back to me and said that Mirror Image is a powerful story that is let down by weak writing. The reader said that everything is there – punch after punch – except strength of words, and sometimes actions. He said that I can write, but I need to “let go” and give it everything I have and more. He said I’m too “nice” and the manuscript requires something much stronger than nice. He claims I am holding back and it shows. He practically slammed a fist on the table and said, “Stuff everyone involved, stop worrying about other people. Stop being so nice and let it all out. Swear, damn it! This isn’t some romance novel where everyone is nice and cosy, and everything is pretty. This is a novel that demands swearing and lots of it. This is a story that needs you, the writer, to let go and let the passion and emotion out. You have to let the reader into your shoes and stop holding everyone back like you do in real life. You can do this. I know you can.”
Talk about a show of passion and emotion! I wish I could bottle that for my own use. Anyway, my response was…to my alarm and shame, tears. Even now I feel those tears springing to my eyes. I know that this is just one person’s opinion, but in the depths of my heart I know he is right.
I felt mortified that a project I value so highly is suffering because of my writing…and because of my personality. I didn’t sleep well because of it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to let go, but I don’t know how to. Why can’t I? What am I going to do?
I need to strengthen my writing. How can I do that? Does anyone have any words of wisdom?
Edited on 5 July 2009:
Read the update here – Did That Character Swear?