Monday, May 21, 2012

The Double Ledge

Today my family spent the day in the mountains. We went to the river where my husband and oldest son went kayaking while I was on shore being a nervous mother. All the while thinking back to a video my husband showed me when we were first together.

It's of him when he was first learning to kayak. He had just come out of his boat and was trying to get away from a rapid, but the current kept sucking him back. His dad sat there calmly and filmed him while in the background you could hear his mom screaming (not too coherently - but I'm sure she was screaming her concern). Her family always made fun of her for it, but today I got a taste of what it would have been like. My son flipped on his first rapid and my heart turned to stone in my chest. Luckily he got out okay and back in his boat, so I didn't need to scream.

When I was a young adult, I used to think that I would never be a good writer because I had never really experienced anything tragic. I was an english major what can I say.

I think when we're writing we don't necessarily have to experience what our characters do, in fact I hope we don't. I'm pretty sure that I'll never have to rescue someone from a dragon, but I have experienced feelings of fear, inadequacy and trying to live up to your families expectations.

So even though we might put our characters in all kinds of horrible and sticky situations that we'll never experience, we can definitely draw on our own emotions when we're writing the scenes in our books.

How about you? Have you ever used a specific emotion when writing a scene?

PS: To finish the story, my husband got sucked into the rapid and popped up down stream. The picture is of the actual rapid called the Double Ledge.


Carolyn V said...

Rapids scare me a bit. Yikes.

I have used specific emotions to write a scene, but I don't think we have to experience everything to know how terrifying, great, or exciting they can be. That's why I love imagination.

Great post Patti! =D

Connie Keller said...

I think all writers draw on their fears, losses, joys, and pains. Even though we may not experience what our characters do (thankfully), the emotions are the same.

Wow, I'm really impressed with the rapids!! Very cool.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I think we can use our experiences to carve the emotion we need. I don't have to experience anything tragic necessarily to understand and emphasize with people. I like watching movies to help me gain emotions and experiences I might not have had. That might sound lame, but there you go.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm with you. Aside from it being possible to write without experiencing everything, I think we can have greater sympathy for others when we attempt to feel what they've gone through--even if we never did.

Glad your son's okay!

Carol Riggs said...

Glad your day on the rapids turned out okay! Often it's the rocks UNDER those rapids that are the problem. I rafted down a river on a rafting trip once and bonked my knee into a huge bruise thanks to a big rock (and I was still in the raft!).

No, I don't think we have to experience our scenes directly, like you said. I have plenty of feelings to draw from, universal ones, as we all do! (to some degree or another)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I recently took a course in which the instructor said the same thing, only you said it more concisely, Patti. :D

Leslie Pugh said...

I don' t think we have to experience everything we want to write about but I'm sure writing about the things we have gone through do help our writing. I know reading books and watching movies can help me empathize and imagine certain experiences I haven't personally gone through.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Glad things went well with your son! I know the feeling...when that umbilical cord gets stretched a little too far sometimes.

As for writing emotions, I think, like in acting, you can always find some relevent emotion in you to grab onto...then fill in the rest with research and empathy for your character.

Julia King said...

Water plain scares me. *shudder*

I've used fear a bit in my writing. It is interested to show that. Makes for some intense scenes.

Heidi Willis said...

You wrote this post beautifully. You always do an amazing job of relating real life to writing. Maybe someday THAT is the book you should write! :)

I went white water rafting once and nearly drowned. Sounds somewhat like your husband... got dumped in the river, stuck in a hydrolic that kept sucking me in and under, and then eventually shot out. Ugh.

I can't even watch people kayaking now.