Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Truth=Depth

Junior year in high school, I didn't have any friends. I'd just moved back to Utah from New Mexico and all my old friends had either dropped out, gone to a different high school, or grown too cool for me. At lunch, the too-cool-for-me friend would run the other way when I walked toward her. I learned fast. She only had to run away once.

What does this have to do with writing? I know how it feels to stand by the girls bathroom during lunch, a spot hidden from the cafeteria, so no one knows you're such a loser that you don't have anyone to eat with. Annnnnnnd guess where my main character eats? Yep. By the girls' bathroom.

Gilbert Blithe from Ann of Green Gables was always telling her to write what she knows. Because if you know it, it's true. You know the emotions associated with the truth, the pain, the joy, the fear. And all of those things=depth.

So embrace your challenges and hardships because one day, you can write about them.

Are you guys the same? What hardships did you endure in high school that are now featured in your books?

32 comments:

lbdiamond said...

Ha, is that why I chose YA? To work out a horrendous adolescence? ;)

Great post!!!

Michelle McLean said...

lol oh yeah...my teen angst is all over my manuscripts :) although, I also have my character reacting in the ways I often wish I did, instead of the way I actually did :) Kind of my way of going back in time and changing something I'd like to change :) Sometimes :D

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Oh yes. My teenage pain is all over my MS too. Like Michelle, I have the MC react in ways I wish I had. I'm sure there is much more material from those years for me to channel into words. :)

OfficeGirl said...

I sure do that! My wips are dripping with supressed childhood/teenhood anger! I actually was the loser by the girls bathroom. Literally.

Kimberly Job said...

Haven't written about my teenage angst yet, but no worries, it's coming. You'll be shocked! I was horribly rotten. :)

My adult experiences provided great fodder for my book though.

Krista said...

It would be easier to list what I haven't use from adolescence. Ugh. I'm glad it's over, but it gave me great stuff to write from!

Palindrome said...

I didn't really have a whole lot of teenage pain. I was just invisible. Slipped through. But I write what I know. It's hard sometimes but you know, it's cathartic and I feel world's better afterwards.

Angela said...

Love this blog post. It's so true!

MisterChris said...

Yep.

Bullying, mainly. I was beat up almost every day in Jr High by a list of bullies.

I was one of the youngest kids in my grade, being born in the summer. And smaller than everyone else.

So naturally my MG/YA series has the 13yo in school being bullied and dealing with burned-out teachers on one side, while it has the swordfighting, dragons, magic, and adventure I daydreamed about constantly on the other side.

I also believe that the human experiences we go through can be transplanted into any setting. For example, writing a story about a street urchin in Calcutta in the 16th century, being bullied by others and the fear and issues that go along with it, can bring the reader squarely into that era. Just make sure you research your setting thoroughly. The human interaction is perfectly portable.

Jackee said...

You and me both, friend! Only it was sophomore year...

And yeah, I have a character who was a pariah like me, who thought she was too "mature" for the kids her age and hun out with the college freshman instead.

And like Michelle, my angst is all over the pages. LOL!

DL Hammons said...

I put a bunch of my teen-age & early collge angst into my first novel...which now languishes on the shelf. Of course most of it dealt with a similar theme as yours...isolation, lonelieness, yearning for love. *Sigh* It was cathartic, but someday I think it will still make a good book! :)

Robin McCormack said...

Wow, just brought back a whole bunch of high school memories. Except my spot to eat lunch was by the library, then I could go in a get lost in the stacks. Figuratively and literally. Lots of stories I could use for writing.

Kristi Helvig said...

I was SUPER shy in high school...a boy once asked me out and I was so freaked out that I couldn't respond and just walked away from him. I'm sure he thought I was a complete bee-atch, but it was entirely due to fear. The MC in my YA novel doesn't speak at all, except to teachers. :)

Liza said...

It hasn't made it into a book...but the radiator down the narrow hall by the math wing was my regular lunch location...while reading a book, of course.

Theresa Milstein said...

Sounds like you have some good writing material.

Those feelings of loneliness and insecurity reside within all of us, from our past and our present. Writers can pull it up when we need it.

Jen said...

This was such a fantastic post I adored it! As you wrote it my old pains were brought up by all your good points.

We may not have had many friends growing up but the things we were left with instead were even more powerful. I now have some wonderful friends and some great writing material. I guess were all molded to be writers when we were young, we just never realized it! Or maybe we did ;)

Jeff King said...

I am glad you became better from your bad experiences...

I have no bad experiences... schools was always a blast for me--made friends with ease, always had people wanting to be with me, seemed to fit into any situation. Never got picked on, and life just got better once I got home from school, party all day until the sun when down.

I guess that’s why my main char is always brimming with confidents and doesn't let anyone push him around or make him feel self-conscious.

I also live in Utah, Spanish Fork...

G said...

None of my high school angst has made it to my adult fiction.

Only my adult angst has made it to my adult fiction.

Whatever issues I had in high school (extremely fat, no friends and a social outcast) stayed in high school.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I use a lot of my real life scenes, though tweaked, in my stories. You're right, nothing like knowing what it's like from first-hand experience. Makes those ugly moments of our youth not so bad. Maybe...

Judith said...

Yes, that's one redeeming quality of embarrassing moments--we can write about it one day and sell a million jillion books.

MT said...

I once heard someone say it this way - don't be afraid to write about your demons. Maybe if I make a list of my demons, give them a new twist, then poof = a novel to be proud of. Nice post. :)

Cole Gibsen said...

I think that's why, for the life of me, I can't write a supportive father figure to save my life. The dads in my books are either horrible or non-existant. But like you said, you gotta write what you know, right?

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Bethany--All the junk that happened to you, makes you you and it makes your voice different than anyone elses. That is the payback for having to live through those times.

Angela M. said...

Bleh! Isolation is a horrible feeling. But most of the very best artists successfully use it along with other pain and hardships to fuel their work. Using your experiences is a great technique, especially because conflict is central to a story.

If I could actually bring myself to pull from all the awful things I've experienced, I think I could write something really powerful, but I find myself skating around it too much (at least for now).

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I haven't used my experiences in high school yet in my stories. They would be boring if I did. But I'm still able to capture on the emotions of that period.

Elana Johnson said...

Dang. I have to make all of mine up. I uh, actually liked high school...

suzie townsend said...

ugh, hated high school! I actually spent senior year eating in the teacher's lounge with my physics and english teachers.

Don said...

My book has more than a little unrequited love and the main character struggles to develop self worth - two things I learned a lot about.

Nichole Giles said...

Almost everything I write about (emotion-wise) is something I've experienced at one point or another. And yes, a majority of it was experienced in high school.

But if you want to know which scenes or issues are ones I experienced or which ones I fabricated for the story--well, I'll never tell. Bwahahahahaha!

PS I would totally have sat by you at lunch.

elizabeth mueller said...

Hi Bethany! I really liked your post.

I had it rough in elementary, middle and high school. It was during the summer of 7th that I decided I wouldn't put up with the bullying and stand up for myself.

It tapered a bit into HS, but by the time I was a Junior, I was so tired of what other people thought of me, I did what I wanted, ignoring everyone that didn't count.

My life got a whole lot easier and my already nerdy honorolls got nerdier--I graduated with honors!! :D

Ps: Can you guess who this person is? ;)

elizabeth mueller said...

PS--just don't say it aloud! ;)

Nishant said...

Love this blog post. It's so true!
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