Man in balaclava

How I Use My Childhood Rape in My Writing

When I was eight I was raped. It feels strange to write that here. It’s not something I’m in the habit of sharing although it does come up now and then with the mums I’m close to because as mothers we discuss these issues in relation to our kids. I was lucky that my parents were very practical and straight forward about getting me help to deal with the experience and, after 25 years, it doesn’t have a strong hold over me.

I’m talking about it now because we all have things happen in our lives which are less than awesome. It doesn’t have to be something as violating as being raped. While people often advise us to remember that, ‘there’s always someone worse off’ when something happens to us, no matter what it is, it feels raw and powerful. And it’s these feelings that we harness as writers.

It’s human nature to avoid thinking about the bad stuff but by ‘going there’ as writers we’re able to imbue our work with greater authenticity. We remember what it’s like to be truly scared or hurt or angry and write experiences for our characters that ring true to our readers. When a character in my work is truly scared, I think back to the scariest moments in my life, including that moment, and use it to bring my work to life.

Some moments from your past, particularly difficult moments, will be too fresh or painful to use in your writing. That’s OK. Don’t torture yourself. Most likely in time you’ll be able to reflect on those moments without feeling upset by them, but you need to give yourself that time first.

Don’t dwell on those negative experiences either. Just as one chapter doesn’t make an entire book, one experience doesn’t make an entire life. Use your memories to inform your work and then let them go again. If you can’t, it may be a sign that it’s too raw at the moment or that you need some help to put that experience behind you.

All lives are made of good and bad experiences. To be fully human, and to make our fictional worlds authentic, we need to embrace both the good and the bad and make it work for us.

Note: After writing this post I wanted to put a featured image with it. I looked for a man in a balaclava because the man who raped me wore a balaclava. Interestingly, just looking at the images made me nervous and uncomfortable. Just goes to show what small details can continue to stay with you after the event.

Everyone has an opinion

Beginning, Middle and End

At a certain point in your education, probably very early on, you will have been taught that all stories have a beginning, middle and end. Being 5 or 6 you probably won’t have responded with, ‘no shit Sherlock’ but I would forgive you if you did because it’s pretty obvious. Kids do get carried away when telling a story but we all instinctively know that a story must start somewhere, something must happen in the middle and the story must come to a close. Continue reading

Why the World is a Dark and Dreary Place (Sometimes)

As a writer you have the opportunity to make the world, any world, and it can be as filled with rainbows or as dark and depressing as you want – so long as your characters see it that way. Scene setting is a big part of writing. Without it your readers can be lost as to where your story (or even just a scene) is taking place and without this context they may find your story difficult to follow. But setting isn’t just influenced by the time and place in which your story takes place but by the emotions of your POV character. Continue reading

How to Make Your Writing Sing Through Editing – Part One

 

Writing is fun. Writing the first draft is a lot like starting a new relationship, there’s so much to explore and so much excitement. Writing is a wonderful creative process.

Editing is none of those things.

But it is vital to turning your work into something that other people will really want to read. That’s not to say that the first draft you write isn’t good but through editing you’ll make it SO much better. How much better? Maybe better enough that someone will want to publish it. Continue reading