“Writing, true writing, requires a level of commitment most people can’t even imagine. You need passion and discipline and incredible amounts of courage.” – Robert Dunbar
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I’ve always recognized passion and discipline as necessary elements of writing, but after reading Mr. Dunbar’s interview at TQR Confidential, I started thinking about courage and how it relates to my writing.
An incredible amount of courage is exactly what it took for me to pick up a laptop and begin An Autumn Tale. I had not written fiction for over twenty years, and I wasn’t sure if I could even do it again. Armed with nothing more than a synopsis and an outline, I took up Lucian’s story, and before I was two pages into An Autumn Tale, Lucian’s voice resonated in my mind.
No one must ever doubt the courage necessary for a writer to show their work to another individual. Joining a critique group was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I took several early hits by a few members who were very unhappy with Christians as a whole, and their prejudices were reflected in their critiques. They wanted a nice politically correct pat on the page and were so busy criticizing superficial symbols they missed the underlying meaning of Lucian’s journey.
At this point I stopped and reconsidered my story. I could have made up a religion and given it Christian elements, but Lucian and his story wouldn’t have been the same. I would be writing a novel based on someone else’s world views, not those of my characters. I instinctively knew it would be cheating to make my characters anything other than Christian.
I kept my courage and didn’t deviate from the religious undertones. I was rewarded with the fine critique partners I currently have. They inspire me, and they never tell me what I want to hear. Instead, they guide me toward what they believe will make my story better. They make me re-examine my characters and their motivations by telling me where they feel like I’m taking the easy way out. They force me improve my prose.
If editors shy from An Autumn Tale because of the novel’s themes, I’m not afraid. I have another story, you see. It’s simmering in the darkness of my heart right now, and I can feel Guillermo’s sad tale beginning to emerge. He is a man suffering a terrible curse that only true love can dispel, but the road to love is surreptitious, and Guillermo isn’t prepared for the sacrifice his salvation requires.
You see, I’ve found my courage in my writing. I don’t want to write pop-candy nor do I want to write obscure prose. I want to entertain you, but I also want you to think about yourself as you read.
So I look deep into my soul and show you the nightmares that plague my dreams. My characters will crawl into their fears, but before I am done, I will raise them up into the light. I am not afraid of taking a chance, and if you come with me, I’ll tell you a story, and if you look closely, you might see yourself in the tale.
How do you express your courage in your writing? Do you take chances with your themes and characters? Or do you play it safe?