Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Storyteller Self-Therapy Unleashed

 I can kill people in stories.

THIS IS FROWNED UPON IN REAL LIFE.

Understandably. Killing is wrong. It's mean. It's despicable. 

But writers have the best therapy tool at their personal disposal: We can take out our angst on fictional people, no one really dies, and no one goes to jail. :)

This means that if you tend toward hissy fits or days of pouting, writing can be cost-free and beneficial for you. 

There are multiple ways to look at Writing Therapy:

Self-interest: We kill off or make the life/lives miserable of people we model after real people... I will admit that I've used this tool from time to time, not to be vindictive, but it does have a healing effect when you take those irritating or frustrating traits in people and use them in fictional characters to move a story along or set a scene or plot. I've also used this to set character arcs for Really Nice People, too! And that helps to make characters relatable and believable. 

Good of Mankind: Sometimes good must triumph over evil and that means the bad guy or girl must die or be arrested or thrown into a dungeon. :) To have good triumph over evil is an age-old plot device we all love and it works. Sometimes we try to re-invent the wheel... but the wheel is already functional, so then it becomes our take on what needs to happen in the story and how far we let the evil go. That's a tough line to draw, and that's when good editing comes in handy because while the author may think the perpetrator needs a beat-down, the editor may see from the reader's point of view that less is more. 

Healing Waters: A lot of authors are introverts. (Disclaimer: I am not an introvert. I'm not even sure why people are introverts, because I actually like people and relish chaos and enjoy interaction, but the fact remains that authors like me seem to be more of an exception, but just so you know, I do have feelings now and again... although I am sometimes the most insensitive person on the planet. Although a good commercial might make me cry! :) Dichotomy, much?) 

Introverts can find healing therapy in their story-telling art. They can affect the lives of fictional characters, which in turn can inspire real people, all done with a keyboard. This isn't a bad thing, it's a very good thing. Emily Dickinson is a classic example. Unfortunately, she didn't have the joy of acceptance and recognition in her time, and that can be the downfall/outcome of hiding in an upstairs room. (insert wry grimace here) Still, the quietness of writing a story can be therapeutic for the introverts among us!

Getting Even Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong: Unless it's in a book!

We have free license to make people pay for their mistakes and/or bring them to restitution or redemption. Both can work, both can have an effect of satisfaction for the reader, but it is important for the author's choice to fit the narrative. That means you have to make it plausible from the beginning that if you're saving a character from him or herself, it makes sense... and if you're making them pay for their evil deeds, your timing is essential. The buildup has to be there. But in the end the writer's satisfaction with getting even fictionally is absolutely appropriate and carries NO JAIL TERM!! :)

 You Can Prove Your Point Systematically:

Now this is a different kind of self-therapy.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

We've all heard this. We all understand the meaning. The horse needs water to live, horse won't drink despite best efforts, horse dies.

How Sad!!!!! But totally the horse's fault. I'm reminded of the old "I sent you two boats and a helicopter" joke, but I'll stay mum on that. As authors we can mentor, advise, counsel and chat with people about writing, life, faith, family, friends... but in the end the choices are firmly in the other author's hands. That means if you fail, it's not systemic failure. It's your failure.

If you take time off, it's your choice... and your time.

If you stop writing after book one because no one bought it (I was a dozen books in before my first sale...) then maybe this isn't the job for you. Is that mean?

No.

It's honest, so the writing as therapy idea only works if you're writing and it doesn't cause you more angst in your personal life. I am often amazed at the things people post on social media about their writing job, their books, their lack of opportunity, all of which are pretty much the same across the board. 

It's only therapeutic if you love it and if you keep doing it. But I will tell you honestly, after watching a lot of authors hit the wall after being contracted, it's not for everyone and there is no shame in that.

In the end, it's all up to you, the author, to do what it takes. Maybe to have what it takes.

But if you do it and stick with it, the self-healing therapy is right there and I promise you: It's way cheaper than some of the more traditional kinds and might even make you some money.

AND.... speaking of wonderful stories, here's a great story just released from Love Inspired Books, with a 4.9/5 rating on Amazon, my third Golden Grove story "Finding Her Christmas Family".... Available nationwide and I'm giving away two copies here in Seekerville!  LINK TO AMAZON HERE


Leave a comment below... it can be about therapy, about great stories, about your latest escapade with a cute puppy.... I'm opening the conversation up to a simple back-and-forth chat because sometimes that's the best story starter! And I'll put your name in the drawing!



Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, friends, her country, dogs, Diet Mt. Dew, coffee, chocolate, and freedom... and kids. :) In her other life she owns a pumpkin farm in Western New York so is often seen baking, selling, laughing and meeting people throughout September and October every year, a job she also loves! Write her at loganherne@gmail.com, find all of her sixty-plus novels and novellas on Amazon.com, visit her website ruthloganherne.com or visit with her here in Seekerville or Thursdays at yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com where she talks life, love and food... and crazy house projects from time to time. 



43 comments:

  1. Sometime you just need someone to talk to who can give you a different look on your life.

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    1. Kim, that perspective can be mind-opening or really scary, depending!

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  2. Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable post. You speak the truth, Ruth! I once wrote a revealing journal entry about why I write, and it was clear from it that my main reason is deep-seated control issues. I mean, where else can I make absolutely whatever I want to happen, happen, except on the page in front of me? And like you said, there's "no jail term!" What could be better or more therapeutic than that?

    I appreciate your giving it to us straight here, and I think I'm going to save your quote, "if you fail, it's not systemic failure. It's your failure." That is actually highly motivating to me to not quit, because that's what failure is, right? I'm also inspired by your example of writing twelve books before you sold one. That is a spirit of determination to admire and emulate!

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    1. Rachel, how nice to see you here!

      And I might have been a little rough, because not everyone is meant to do this. I know this. I've seen enough over twenty years to know that it's not a universal truth that means everyone who gets offered a contract could, will or should be a writer with a lifetime career.

      But for those of us who love it, and who are fairly thick-skinned, it's the best... The very best. But I think you have to love it as much as you have to want it, if that makes any sense, Rachel!

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  3. Love your post, Ruthy! 'Course I always love your writing...in posts or BOOKS. And your new book looks fantastic; I am anxious to read it so please count me in.
    Have a blessed day!

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    1. Jackie, will do! But you're on the mailing list, it's just that things converged so that I couldn't get things mailed out in August... First, losing Lisa, then pumpkin season. But we shall live to breathe again, and we're so blessed to be doing things we love!

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    2. Oh OKAY.....I'll be watching my mailbox and certainly understand how busy you are!!
      THANKS!

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  4. Ruthy, this is interesting on so many levels. But then you usually are.
    1. Writing is therapy. We can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling through our work. Not in a self-indulgent way, and it has to be meaningful to the reader and not just our own narcissism. But I just got through with a character who has some MAJOR baggage and stuff to work through, and I channeled some of my own spiritual journey into her. I don't know if she helped me more or I helped her more.
    2. The ACT of writing is therapy. It was the only thing that got me through the six months of Corona lockdown. I wrote an 82,000-word novel and 12,000 words of novella. Didn't clean closets, didn't bake bread, didn't even play a single board game -- but I wrote.
    3. I'm so blessed to be able to do this.
    4. Shameless self-promotion, I'll be on Petticoats and Pistols this Friday talking about structure in the Western genre. Stop by and say hi.
    Thanks Ruthy, you have given me some things to think about. Looking forward to reading your new book, I love a Christmas story.
    KB

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    1. Kathy, good job on using that time so wisely. That's really awesome. And I love Petticoats and Pistols! I was on there for years, but then I wasn't writing Westerns anymore.... I was contracted in Savannah and Charleston and the Blue Ridge. EEEEK! That meant I wasn't a card-carrying filly!!!!!

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  5. Maybe I need to start writing so I can release some of my frustrations. I definitely need an outlet lately with all the responsibilities I have. Hahahahaha. Thank you for sharing. Blessings

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    1. hahahahahahahaha! That would do it, Lucy! It's amazing how therapeutic fictional crises can be because we can SOLVE THEM!!!!

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  6. Ruthy, I've found "therapy" writing about things I'm dealing with in my faith journey. God has used my book writing to teach me more about Him!

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    1. Missy, you understand exactly what I'm saying. We grow to know more about ourselves and the world with our work... so the hours of research pay off in abundance!

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  7. Hi Ruth:

    I do worry a little bit about 'enjoying' the killing of people in fiction -- even if it proves to be therapeutic. (Ends justifying the means?)

    This reminds me about why they Puritans were against bear-baiting: it was not because it was cruel to the bear but rather because the Puritans were enjoying it.

    Then there is that quote in Matthew (5:28) - "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Didn't Jimmy Carter make this quote famous?)

    Also, is it not the vicarious that the nuns called 'the occasion of sin' which is a sin in itself to even enter? You don't even have to partake to place a black mark on your soul! (How long in Purgatory will you have to suffer to remove that black spot?)

    Remember: hidden in 'therapist' is 'the rapist'. (Physician heal thyself.)

    It gets down to this: is killing in fiction a guilty pleasure or a pleasure you're guilty of?

    Love your post!
    You write the most fun things.

    Vince

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    1. Not a pleasure, sir, but surely a retribution worth noting, LOL! And even if I'm not killing someone, (most of my deaths in my stories are sympathetic losses, in any case) I do love using real people to drive up the realism factor of my characters. And Vince, you're not on Facebook, but it is a treasure trove of character profiles. Mostly nice ones!!!! But then there are folks who can't stop talking....

      Who can't stroll (scroll) on by.

      And that makes for some interesting back-and-forth dynamics.

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  8. Great post as usual, Ruthy! You always have good inspiration and motivation. No need to put me in the drawing. I ordered the book through my book store and will be picking it up today when I go there to work! I look forward to reading it. I really enjoyed your other Garden Grove books.

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    1. Oh, Sandy, thank you! I'm so glad you're enjoying them! I know I had a great time writing them. :)

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  9. Thank you for the post Ruth! This made me want to write more, sometimes I really need that writing therapy :)

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    1. Writing therapy rocks, LOL! :) It's true, Angeline.... And I have the clear conscience to prove it! Go you!

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  10. Like always, your words are so true!

    When everything went south this year, I turned to writing. It has helped so much, even if I haven't finished any of my projects yet!

    But an early reviewer of "Softly Blows the Bugle," (releasing next week) was worried about me when she read about the bad guy in the book, and messaged me on Facebook. She wondered which part of my thinking would bring forth that kind of villain! We talked it through and she understood my reasoning, but her question made me think: where HAD that character come from? I realized that he was born out of a hatred of evil, especially evil disguised as good. When I re-read those parts of the book, it was clear to me that I was ready to kill (not the person - the concept!) Free therapy even when I wasn't expecting it!

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    1. Hahahahahahahaha! I think the downfall of our beautiful country made me grumpy in the spring and I had to rewrite big parts of a story because I was a little rough on the bad guy, LOL! So my therapy cost me some extra time, but I didn't kill anyone in real life! FIST BUMP!

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    2. Killing people in real life is NEVER good. :-)

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  11. Ruthy, in a year filled with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, writing has been VERY therapeutic. Oh, and Finding Her Christmas Family is at the top of my tbr pile. Woot!

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    1. You speak truth, LOL! And what a nice thing to say, Mindy! The roller coaster is a perfect metaphor for 2020, isn't it?

      WHERE ARE THE MURDER HORNETS?????

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  12. Half the time, I think writing is therapy for me...and the other half of the time, I think writing causes my need for therapy! Ta-MAY-to Ta-MAH-to. ;)

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    1. hahahahaha! There is that, isn't there? I think that's the crux of being tough because we've witnessed the inside track... waiting for contracts, rejections, learning new tricks of indie publishing, rewriting stories and doing light edits or major revisions.

      This isn't for the thin-skinned.

      But then, I have never been accused of being thin-skinned. :)

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  13. So glad to know there is another Ruthy book for my Christmas TBR pile. :) Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, ever since my teenage diary and subsequent journalling morphed into writing fiction.

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    1. Carol, that's so true! I was the same way, creating fiction lifted me away from reality... and how blessed when I finally got the time to start writing for publication. And the eight years it took helped toughen my hide and teach me a lot about writing, about myself, and about the industry. Which is very interesting! :)

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    2. Carol, so nice to see you! I hope all is well!

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  14. A childhood friend of mine is a retired Federal Air Marshall. Some friends of his among other Marshalls include two guys who have consulted for Barry Eisler on some of his books. Barry Eisler thanked them by making them henchman in a novel and then killing them in an interesting way. My friend has asked that I use him in a novel one day and find a way to kill him off that is more interesting than what Barry Eisler did to his friends.

    Working on it.

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    1. Busted out laughing! I love that, Walt! Pick a torture????

      Still laughing!

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    2. Walt, so glad to see your comment. Hope the family is doing well. Let us know how you decide to kill your friend. :)

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  15. Ruthy, I'm an extrovert, too, so I can empathize with you not understanding introverts. I don't, either, and I'm married to one! :-)
    And yes. I've definitely done some self-therapy in my writing. Definitely.

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    1. My husband is, too... perhaps it's an eternal plan? At least one of us talks to people, LOL!

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  16. Ruthy, I just got feedback from a contest I entered and this post was just what I needed to hear. Thank you! -In the end, it's all up to you, the author, to do what it takes. Maybe to have what it takes.- So true!
    My daughter works at a vet clinic and brought home a little kitten that had been dropped off. We celebrated today because it finally weighs one pound!

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    1. Oh, a kitten! We have one, too... and they're so much fun! Sally, I'm glad this was timely. We have choices. Choices have consequences. And we have more choices now with indie publishing than we've ever had, so the door is wide open to building our own but I'd be remiss to tell people that it doesn't take work, work and more work. There aren't any handouts... but there are opportunities. They just might not look like we expect?????

      And sometimes we need to just grab the gold ring and stay on the ride!

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  17. "I think you have to love it as much as you want it." Thanks so much for posting that, Ruthy. I'm in the midst of some career planning, which of course includes pruning away some of the opportunities in front of me to focus (with laser-like intensity, as Dave Ramsey would say) on others. At the end of the day, love really is the most compelling factor in making the best decisions. And that is one of those lessons I have to keep learning over and over :-) And yep, I too work through A LOT of in writing suspense for Love Inspired. The benefit of writing-therapy is there for everybody, published or not!

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    1. Amen to all of that! And I think you've nailed such a good point, Jenna... that if love is guiding our decisions, they'll come out all right (well, as long as they're legal!!!!)

      And you're right, I was knocking at the door of publication for 8 years before I got the call and the therapy was effective then, too! :)

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  18. Ruthy, I'm joining you on the extrovert side of the spectrum! Early in my writing journey, I was upset about a person in the national limelight and included him into one of my first manuscripts, using an alias, of course. I loved being about to control the situation, and in my story, the guilty culprit got his comeuppance!

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    1. Yes! It's a great way to soothe those ruffled feathers! :) And we extroverts may be few and far between, but we're noticeable!

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  19. Hi Ruthy! I knew from the first sentence this was written by you! It's nice to have your own voice. :)

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    1. Bossy. Scolding. Invasive.

      :)

      Yep. I've got my own voice, all right!

      (literally rolling on the floor, laughing!)

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  20. As always Ruthy, smack me on the side of the head with your words and humour. LOL Thanks for a great post.

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