Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't you set out to write gripping

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite YA writers. I'm reading Wintergirls and it's gripping; gut-wrenching gripping.

But what distinguishes writing that grips and wrenches guts, and writing that manipulates emotions?

I don't know for sure, but here's just a thought: if you set out to write a book that is gut-wrenching, it will probably end up being manipulative. If you set out to write authentically, to search for that truth that is deep enough that you'd rather not touch, to explore what about the truth that makes it resist probing, you might just end up touching your readers, maybe not in as deep a level that you'd have to delve to write it, but deep enough to create a real connection.
[Fake Jay/Real Jay
by cogdogblog at Flikr Commons]

So, dare I?


tanita davis said...

This is actually a good question... I don't think people who set out to write tear-jerkers usually get there, either. I mean, I can't read certain authors with a straight face, because I KNOW that there's going to be A Big Moment and tears and/or a Big Lesson and tears, and/or a pregnancy scare and/or teen with some terminal disease, and ...tears. She's a proficient writer, yet she aims for these things, thus I feel manipulated.

So, no. You can't set out to write "gripping" prose; to my mind, you can only set out to write something that grips YOU, and hope it works the same for others.

I've stepped off of my own cliff; I definitely encourage the uncomfortable, cranky-making, terror-inducing trip for everyone else. :D

Yat-Yee said...

Heh, Tanita: I love your fallen off the cliff prose. And your courage for jumping.

I think you've nailed it: write something that grips you, and makes you want to escape. Then there may be a chance that what results will touch readers--if it doesn't drain/drive insane/empty out the author first.

MG Higgins said...

This is such a good point and something I need to think about. In my WIP I've got several emotional scenes that I don't want to seem obvious or manipulative. I think as long as I stay true to my main character, i.e., I write HER reaction, not the reaction I want my readers to have, I think I'll be okay.

Yat-Yee said...

Right: not trying to get a certain reaction from your readers is probably a good gauge.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful said! Great post!