Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Emotional Truth (or Can You Handle the Truth?)

Tip of the Day: Take advantage of Wegmans $6 meals when you can.

Last week I talked about the Rochester Teen Book Fest and said I'd discuss my take aways from the event as a writer.

The overarching theme from the presenters I saw was to write to your emotions. Torrey Maldonado really brought this home with his invigorating speech. To all those sixth graders who have him for a teacher: you are so lucky!

Shari Maurer and Selene Castrovilla, who I spent most of my day with, kept reminding me and their audience to write "the emotional truth." If the story calls to be written in a certain way, write it. The plot of the novel doesn't need to mimic a real life experience the writer has had, but the EMOTIONS evoked from the manuscript should reflect a real emotion that has been experienced.

Some books are hard to write, but hard books need to be written. They will touch at least one reader. And that reader is important. That reader is who you are writing for. Selene's second book deals with cancer, and she had teens from the cancer center at one of her talks. Shari's book deals with heart transplants, and she had a 16-year-old who'd had 2 heart transplants at her talk. It gave me chills to hear these teens tell the authors what their books meant to them; that it made them realize they weren't alone. Chills.

TBF was not the first time I'd heard the expression about writing the emotional truth BUT it was the first time it really hit me about what that meant. In 2010 I rewrote the first novel I'd ever written and heavily revised my YA that is currently on sub. Both of those books were important for me to write because of the significant parts that pieces of them have played in my life. Not exact replicas of the situations or plots -- I made sure to NOT regurgitate my life in a novel -- but I realized in revising both works that in trying to avoid writing memoirs, I had skimmed over the emotional truths! Watered them down!

It took me a long time to figure out what emotion I intended to write, and that I needed to get there in whatever way felt natural, not by forcing the books to go in different directions to avoid autobiographical elements. And not by adding in autobiographical elements either.

Thank you, TBF authors, for giving me this reminder. I plan to use it in every writing session from now on.

*Another gem completely unrelated? When I asked Selene and Shari if they thought contemp realistic fiction like theirs would have a resurgence of popularity, they said they believe books like theirs will always have readers and followers -- it's just that the paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy readers are a lot more demonstrative (as was evidenced by manga author/illustrator Svetlana Chmakova's fans in their costumes at the Fest).

I think she's totally right. Trends will be trends, but those books that offer fun costumes and creatures will always have another avenue of marketing and drawing attention to the work.

Thoughts on any/all of this?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


Kate Fall said...

Great post, Deena. I think if we can deliver the emotions, make people laugh or cry or experience empathy, we have succeeded. Let's really work on this! I love your insight on trying to avoid memoir watering things down.

DeenaML said...

Kate, you help me do it and I'll help you! :)