What’s weighing on my mind, at the moment, is the recent death of my friend Steve. As I’ve said on this blog at least once before, one of the greatest benefits of being a writer is having a built-in process for investing painful emotions into a creative outlet. It can come across as exploitation, particularly to non-writers, which is why (I think) many great writers have ticked off a lot of people.
Since Steve was both a writer himself and a hardcore fan of Hunter S. Thompson – who ticked off probably everyone he ever wrote about – I think he’d be perfectly happy, and possibly amused, to know that (a) he’s being thought about by his friends and (b) that some of us would mull over his death via writing, and perhaps gain some inspiration in the process. Inspiring people was one of the things Steve enjoyed most.
The closest thing to a writing exercise I can come up with this week is this: Think about the most important, most core aspects of people you know, the thing that would stand out about them if they were abruptly gone. The stories you would tell about them to process their passing, the things that really make them tick, what they’re reaching for in life. Even if you’re not a writer who bases characters on real-life friends, relatives, or acquaintances, looking at these things about real people can help you realize what’s extraneous detail and what’s the HEART of a person, real or fictional, or some combination of the two. If you know that, everything else about a character will fall into place on its own.
Very thoughtful post, Sara. I think it could be helpful to non-writers, too. Reflecting, really reflecting, on our friends and loved ones is something we all need to do more often, and better to do it while they’re still with us.