As I edit the first draft of my third novel, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the vulnerability of my characters. It’s a story of adoption, of loss and love, longing and sacrifice and how far you’ll go for your child. My characters are exposed, their emotions raw and open to the elements. It’s what I hope will make for a moving and emotionally truthful story.
But here’s the thing: it’s impossible to write from a character’s vulnerability without engaging with your own.
And that’s tough. As with What Milo Saw and The Return of Norah Wells, this book has raised many personal issues for me. I’m beginning to realise, as many writers do when they have a few books under their belt, that although each story is distinct, there a handful of ideas that somehow won’t let me go. Motherhood. Family. What if feels like to be on the margins of things. To fail those you love. To remake your family out of the raw material of life. All these issues pulse through my debut YA novel, Wishbones, which you’ll be finding out about soon:).
Anyway, to write about those things I’ve had to think about how I relate to the issues that my characters are facing and to do that I’ve had to take a long, hard look at my own life. And to see where the ache is and where I’ve fallen short and where my fears and longings lie. And, to use the words that Brené Brown is brave enough to engage with: shame and vulnerability. The two tend to go hand in hand.
I don’t believe that writing is therapy. But I do believe that, to write honestly, you have to write wholeheartedly and that means going deep into your own life, even if the specific situations and characters of your stories are very different from own.
And I believe in Brené Brown‘s wonderful contention that creativity springs from vulnerability, because vulnerability means truth and authenticity, the qualities which breathe life into a story.