“Tell them something they need someone to say for them.”
Today’s entry in my Just Write Challenge is on advice given to me by a longtime friend and writing mentor, via a messaging conversation. Perhaps some can relate to my frustration, and some can gain from his response:
ME: Can you believe I am STILL not done my Alaska book? It hovers over me constantly, like a fog — sometimes thicker, sometimes barely perceptible, but always there.
I keep thinking, “I should message [my friend] and tell him about my frustration in this regard.”
I don’t know why. Maybe because I know that you are interested in the book.
The more well-written books I read, the more I become aware of my shortcomings as a writer. It is a daunting task, to compile all the stories in an interesting-to-read manner. They are all interesting to me, but I want them to be interesting to the reader, too, lest they put the book down unfinished, as I do with so many books that bore me.
Over the past week or so, I’ve got it in my mind to start (again!) another book, that being the story of how I met [the ex], the process I went through with him as he tore me down, and how I finally escaped.
I’ve been urged to write that book many times by many people, but the thing is, I feel like it’s only interesting to those who know me. And I’ve seen so many biography type books on people who’ve been through abuse, to the point that I don’t like reading them at all.
Buuuut, maybe I will write it anyway.
And the thing that’s been going through my mind about it is that maybe I should write it from a third-person point of view, rather than me me me. That’s another thing with which I struggle in my books: it’s only ME. I’m not a famous person. I feel uncomfortable focusing on me. Maybe if I do it in third-person, I won’t feel quite that way
FRIEND: I use third person, for exactly that reason. As I hinted before, I think Dostoevsky is doing that much of the time — telling his own story.
I’ve been reading my second Fyodor Dostoevsky novel. His narrative is the best I have encountered, and I marvel that I have that opinion merely through a translation.
How much better in the original Russian?
So, it must be the story he has to tell.
In both novels, he tells of some of the same characters: A horrible man who cruelly whips and beats a horse to death. A poor college student who gets a theological paper published and becomes greatly elevated in social rank as a result. A busybody housewife of the unearned upper class.
I have no doubt that these are real people and events from his own life — powerful, iconic (for him) stories and characters. Those icons give us glimpses into his, the author’s, heart, mind, and soul.
Dostoevsky has a huge heart, a supple mind, and a beautiful soul.
I got bored in the first few chapters of the second novel, but I pressed on because I cared about what he wanted to share about hearts, minds, and souls — especially his own.
You, too, see humanity in those terms. You have beauty inside and out. You, too, have a faith that overcomes all.
Let the reader care about you, and they’ll read. Tell them something they need someone to say for them. Tell them, also, what they need to know, but probably do not realize.
They’ll keep turning pages.
ME: Thank you. I think I shall print out what you just wrote about Dostoevsky and keep it on top of my desk to refer to for encouragement. I have another such printout from [another friend]. My desk is becoming cluttered. I need to fix that.
FRIEND: In that way God has of making a point, [a mutual friend] just sent me a little story. She sent it, she wrote, because I had encouraged her to write stories that give the reader glimpses into her.
So she did, writing to her sister, and copied it to me, separately.
It was a perfect example.
Yes, it is more interesting to me, because I love you two, but any reader is going to love you two. Let them.
I am grateful for friends. I hope someday I actually finish both of those books. They might be of interest and of help to someone.