I remember hearing (from a friend) an interview with Stephen King. (I’m completely giving this story to you third hand. That means it may be completely wrong.)
Anyway, in the interview, King said once he heard someone step on a roach and he (King) just cringed. Then he thought, “I want to make readers feel that way.”
Is that true? Maybe. But the idea of writing something that will make a reader cringe (in this case because it’s scary) is smart. We want our readers to feel emotions when they read our novels.
A few days ago a friend asked me to write something for a collection she’s editing. I won’t say what or anything in case my piece doesn’t get in. But I will say this–I was worried. It’s dark and sad. And my writing about this will sort of bare my soul. It took me three days to write less than 300 words. Then, I cried when I talked to my girls about it. Felt embarrassment about the topic. About the words I’d put to paper.
It occurred to me that when I write I do poke around at emotions. Lots of times I’m heart-heavy when I write a sad book. And the easiest novels I ever write are the ones that fill me with joy because those books are–wait for it–happy.
But have I ever felt the way this essay has made me feel? So raw? So exposed?
I think so. It’s part of my process. A hard part sometimes. But a necessary part.
If you want your readers to feel whatever it is you want to convey, then you better know that feeling inside and out.
The words have to ring true. The emotion needs to be palpable. The reader needs to feel like the character. Needs to BE the character.
So if you scare yourself, you are probably scaring your reader.
Remember that the next time you crunch a roach.