Writing, even speculative fiction, requires a heavy dose of truth, and sometimes, that truth is a bitter elixir. In order to create something great, it not only needs to be true to the writer’s voice, but true to the needs of your characters, and to their voices, as well.
Lately, as I anticipate with great joy the coming release of my short story in Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, and later, my novella, Opal, and especially as I work on things to come, my dopey grin has slid into a tense, jaw grinding grimace. It isn’t the many strangers who will pick up my work (that is simply thrilling!) or even negative reviews because I know full well that not everyone has the same taste in literature, or writing styles. No, what’s got me on edge is the realization that my friends and family will be reading my work!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a ready-made fan base of loved ones, but the truth is, I didn’t write these stories for them. They are not my true audience, and when I think of what my Great Aunt will think when she reads that sware word, repeatedly… or what would happen if my pastor picked up the piece I wrote with such non-Christian views… or what about the hint of a sex scene in that other story, what if my Dad reads that?! I’ve got a nervous habit of biting my nails, and let me just say, right now, they’re pretty raw. But you know, even if my swollen, stubby-nailed fingers throb and bleed, I will write on, and I will write what I will. I don’t speak in the same language my characters use in my stories. I don’t necessarily share their views, and I certainly haven’t done all the things they have done. But to be an honest writer, a true to my character, true to my voice, fully explorative, curious by nature, contemplative artist– I must write with creative freedom.
I can guarantee someone close to me is going to be offended by something I’ve written, and as excited as I am when my Grandparents say they want a signed copy of my latest publication, I have to fight back, tooth and nailstub, that little girl inside of me that keeps shouting warnings in my head, “You better not let them read that! Don’t you tell so and so that this one’s even coming out, because you know how they feel about that one topic you delved into… Maybe you should just blow the whole thing off and steer them towards something more their style… something written by someone else…” Sorry, you fearful little creature of my heart, but you simply need a time out. Life is not about pleasing loved ones to no end.
There’s a whole world out there, and someone, somehow, that I could never have imagined knowing otherwise, is going to read something I write someday, and it’s going to light up their world when they relate to it– and that’s who the story was intended for. Nor am I going to squelch what God gave me, whatever talent and motivation I have to write what I write, for the sake of keeping the peace. Often family comes first, and should, but sometimes, as in writing, you have to put forward that single voice of truth, however harsh or uncomfortable it may be.