Today I treated myself to some writing, especially with an entire evening full of Science to do, and I was very excited! I have finally reached the first catalytic scene of my novel ‘Entwined’ and I found myself almost stumped at how to write it.
Why? Because the scene itself is uncomfortable for my character to experience, therefore, uncomfortable for me to properly communication. Without giving too much away, the scene involves my female MC having to sleep with a minor male character, and it’s rather uncomfortable on many levels. I’ll explain further below.
Samantha struggles to do it because:
- She feels ashamed.
- She knows her parents, if they knew, would be very disappointed.
- Every predication they’d made than her boyfriend would ruin her, has come true.
- She’d only ever been with one person in life, and even with her boyfriend’s blessing to sleep with this man, she struggles to do.
Beyond this list of reasons, as a female, it was uncomfortable to write myself. It’s not the first time I’ve written scenes like these, but this has been the worst of them so far. There are various reasons for this it comes down to one thing – females may be more affected by it, than men. Women who understand that kind of situation, especially something as a scary as a first time ever, or with a new partner, it’s something relatable. That’s not to say that men necessarily understand, but the general view I have on the topic, and from the kind of men I know, they don’t tend to be shy.
But the main point of this post is not specifically on the example above. It’s on the main theme of uncomfortable themes that make us feel awkward as we write, which is properly conveyed, will demonstrate the character’s awkwardness. I’ve written many scenes like this that left me with the same thought of, ‘how the hell can I write this?’ and I’ve found a way that helps me get through it.
I always think to myself, if I feel uncomfortable, then I should be able to convey my own emotions through the character. However, that alone, is a difficult job. When it comes to writing sex scenes, I don’t feel uncomfortable easily. I only felt uncomfortable writing a phone sex scene because I’d never done it before, but for general sex scenes – fine, no problem.
Perhaps the reason we feel uncomfortable is because of our personal preferences. It’s not secret that as a person I hate the word ‘arse’ and it’s awful. I prefer ‘ass’ but as some of my writing is based on the UK, I can’t use Americanisms and I had to put aside my personal feelings and tune into my character. What do they say? I’ve used a word that many frown upon anyway, and I’ve been asked by certain readers I respect for a character not to use that certain word. But my response? He has to say it. Because it’s impactful and it properly demonstrates the full situation of the relationships between said characters.
There are two options to confronting uncomfortable scenes whether it’s something like rape (which I cover in my work), to drugs, or domestic violence (which is a theme in Tiptoe) and it’s a simple fight of flight dilemma – either push through and write it or abandon the idea.
I always ask myself, is this scene 100% necessary and most of the time the answer is yes. Without giving too much away, I’ll demonstrate. The scene in Entwined demonstrates a pivotal moment for Samantha and for the plot. The point of no return where she literally hits rock bottom and her self-esteem is no more.
In the first novel I ever wrote In Between Dreams, my first draft is very tame because I was afraid to alienate readers with themes they may not like, and I limited myself. When I think back to it, I was so paranoid to drag out the pacing that the pace of the story is too fast. But since writing that novel, I’ve got another two ready to edit and starting my fourth. With the skills I’ve learned along the way, I can work on it slowly to make it the novel I want it to be.
If you as a writer feel uncomfortable with something you’re writing, it doesn’t mean you scrap the idea. As authors we learn a lot about our characters by putting them in difficult situations and making them dig their way out of trouble, or drowning in their troubles. And in a way, we experience the same thing in real life. We can’t always control what happens in our lives and we only learn the true extent of abilities when it comes to difficult situations. We can live vicariously through our characters.
I may not have been married and divorced, but my characters have and through what little experience I have of losing somebody I once thought I loved, I have dealt with many themes that have given me more knowledge to handle situations in the future. All of my characters teach me something, and with my current work, Samantha has a lot to learn from many life lessons that my other characters have taught me.
The wonderful thing about writing and reading is that we can experience different lives. For the themes that interest me, I have learned a lot from reading Ellen Hopkins’ books, that actively impact my writing. Sarah Kane’s plays have developed character drowned in anguish and struggles that often defeat them, and they remain at rock bottom.
It is through discomfort that we learn and grow as people, and through experience that discomfort with our characters, we can truly expand as authors, and as people.
I’d love to hear your ways of handling these situations when you’re writing and you hit you a brick wall called ‘discomfort’. What works best for you to disconnect your writer brain and truly become your character?
- Dialogue as “character communication” (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- When Writing is Uncomfortable… Where Angels Fear to Tread. (pippadacosta.wordpress.com)
- Writing sex: which classics would have received the Fifty Shades of Grey treatment? (theguardian.com)
- THIS WRITING LIFE: Sex and the Rural Romance Author (cathrynhein.wordpress.com)