Saturday, October 8, 2011

Freedom Writers and Emotional Writing

So, I've been reading a book called Freedom Writers Diary, which many of you may have heard of.  It was, not long ago, made into a movie, starring Hillary Swank.  It's the story of a teacher that goes into teaching in Long Beach and leads a group of "problem children" out of the dark.

You can see my personal, emotional reactions to the book on my blog, Live, Love, Laveer, but here I want to tell you about the thoughts it gave me on writing.

Freedom Writers Diary is a collection of entries from Journals that Ms. Gruwell (the teacher in the book) had her children writing in the book where they're encouraged to write about their day, their life, and their thoughts and emotions.  These are off-hand writing, not meant to sounds poetic or deep.  They're the words of normal teenagers that actually tended to have very poor education because of what their teachers thought of them.  Yet the emotions in the posts made the writing feel better than good, in my eyes.

So that got me thinking: if my writing is good now, how good would it be if I started getting more emotional with my writing?

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to poor my heard out into the books I write.  But my characters should, shouldn't they?  I should find a way to relay from the pages into the reader how things are for my characters, whether they're happy, sad, enraged or silly.  If the writings of a fourteen year old with a sub-par education can jump off the page and make me want to laugh and cry and be angry, then why can't my writing do the same?

But then I asked myself another question.  How can I relay emotions if I can't understand situations?

In one of my short stories, Alyssa A's Sister, a young girl gets raped at a party.  But do I really reflect the emotions that are going through her mind when she's being forced into bed?  Do I accurately display how a young girl would feel as people whisper about her on her "walk of shame" as she leaves the party?  I, myself, have never been raped; I've never been put in a situation where I've had to walk through a room where everybody's whispering about me. 

A writer's job is difficult in this way.  It's difficult for someone to write about something they've never experienced.  This should not - can not - stop us from doing what we love to do.  But it should encourage us to try and live life and be involved in what's going on around us.

Research can be a daunting word.  Research is a word that makes me think of long hours pouring over old newspapers and computer screens, reading uninteresting facts that probably won't do me any good.  But it can be so different from that; it can be so much better and so much more.  Reading The Freedom Writers Diary in and of itself has been a form of research for me.  It's given me insight into the minds of teenagers who are going through difficult things.  I can read their emotions and use them to reflect on how some of my characters may react to similar situation.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that reading books about things that actually happened can do amazing things for your writing.  The Freedom Writers Diary was the book that turned me onto this, but after I'm done with it, I intend to go on a hunt for more books that can give me further insight into the human heart and mind.  Because an understanding of how people think and feel will help me do amazing things with my writing.

I seriously recommend The Freedom Writers Diary to all people, writers and non-writers.  I also encourage all of the writers out there to do their best to reflect emotion in their writing.  Emotion can be the difference between an good piece and an amazing piece.

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