10 November 2012

Are You Vulnerable Enough?

Sometimes I read other peoples work and marvel at just how real they allow themselves to be. Their writing goes deeper than merely telling a story or making a point. It manages to touch on some universal truth that binds us all together as humans.
Vulnerability is one of the most important tools for a fiction writer. If we don’t own our sadness, anger, insecurities or joy how can we expect to create authentic characters? How do you convey love, heartbreak, or betrayal without remembering how it felt? That kind of uninhibited writing is scary, but people respond to it. Your truth reaches out to the reader’s truth and somehow, over a river of fiction, a bridge to reality is built.
Growing up, I expressed my feelings through writing poetry. Prose became my focus as I got older, but last year during a difficult time I returned to my first love and wrote a poem. It contained such raw emotion that I didn’t want anyone to read it. Yet it was so authentically ME that I longed for it to be heard. Hours later I found myself in a writing forum known for being particularly brutal. I still don’t know what possessed me to share the poem, but it was one of the best received pieces I had ever posted. I was shocked at the positive reaction it stirred.
I still struggle with writing vulnerably. I care too much about what people think and I have to make a conscious effort not to let it flatten my voice. I don’t want to write with my guard up. I want to write messy, ugly and afraid. I don’t want paper characters that cry alligator tears. I want their names, flesh and words to be as real as the person sitting next to my reader on the train.  
That day in the forum the hurt deep within me reached out to the hurt in someone else. Our differing styles, backgrounds, political leanings etc., didn’t matter. For a small span of time we remembered that we’re all made out of the same stuff.  That’s beautiful. That’s why I write.
Do you think vulnerability in writing is important? If so, does it come naturally to you?

(image from freedigitalphotos.net)


  1. It doesn't quite come naturally to me... but yes, it is important.

    I've put a lot of myself- including the stuff that I don't like to talk about- into my characters, and into my writing.

  2. Glad I'm not the only one! I'm discovering that my protagonist avoids certain emotions the same way I do :) It's interesting trying to get her to express herself.

  3. There comes a time in your life where you realize that being human is not a weakness. When you can express those feelings that make you human, it is a strength which doesn't come easy. It takes a lot of defeat and acceptance of reality, but also the satisfaction that you are where you are in life and you're still happy. With that strength in self, you can write anything you want and people will believe you.

  4. Great insight, Diane. I strive for that total acceptance.

  5. I find I write my best scenes at my most vulnerable moments... and when I go back and read them the next day, I have to do massive editing. Still, they turn out to be some of my most favorite scenes.
    Sometimes, I find characters in books to be more real than real-live people...