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Book: Crisis Writing - Use Your Experience to Fuel Your Fiction (Writer's Craft Book 35) by Rayne Hall

Book: Crisis Writing - Use Your Experience to Fuel Your Fiction (Writer's Craft Book 35) by Rayne Hall

categories: Book, Writing Therapy, Emotion Writing, Writing for Therapy, Writing as Therapy, Writing from Heart, Emotional Writing, Writing and Psychology, Authentic Writing, Tough Times Writing, Writing for Survival, Feel Better Writing, Writer's Craft


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Rayne Hall

Rayne Hallabout this book: Book excerpt:

INTRODUCTION

Are you in the grip of an overwhelming personal problem, or caught up in the currents of a worldwide disaster? If you struggle to survive and keep going day after day, if you find it difficult to summon the energy and the will to write, then this book can help.

I'll guide you to write more and write better than ever, by turning harrowing events into potent stories. Harness the power of your emotions, mould your experiences into fiction. You can even put the evil people who harmed you into service as villains. Your observations become the fuel that turns your tales into beacons.

You can use this book as a course of study to enrich your author voice. At the same time, it serves as practical self-therapy, because many of the principles are adapted from CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy).

By looking at events from the perspective of an author instead of a victim, you will gain wisdom and serenity. Reframe bad experiences as story material, and manipulate events on paper. This will put you in control instead of being controlled. You don't need psychotherapy or counselling to feel better: you just need to write.

I'll show you how, in 30 lessons with assignments. For some of the exercises, you can work on the short story or novel you've already started, while others will be useful for future works. I suggest you do them all, perhaps one every day if this suits your schedule.

In April 2020, when bushfires devoured homes and habitats, the Covid-19 pandemic killed many and deprived others of their livelihood, racial hatred raged and violent riots erupted, many of my fans and social media followers lived in isolation, stress, poverty and fear. I decided to help by offering to teach a free-of-charge online writing workshop - one designed to alleviate the emotional strain at the same time as giving the students advanced fiction writing skills. The update was phenomenal, and the participants loved it. Many reported that they felt better equipped to cope with the disaster, and that their fiction had soared to a new level.

As the pandemic extended, bringing with it lockdowns, political strife and financial hardship, I decided to turn the course into a book for the Writer's Craft series. The contributions of the original students have been invaluable for this. I widened the scope, so it's no longer just about coping with Covid-19, but about responding to whatever crisis you are going through.

This guide is suitable for fictioneers at all levels, whether you're a beginner just starting out with story writing, or a professional author with many books under your belt.

I'm using British English, so if you're used to American English, some grammar and punctuation may look odd and some words unfamiliar, but I'm sure you will have no problem understanding the content.

Now get ready to boost your writing and help yourself to feel good. I'll be your guide on this journey of discovery.

Rayne
Chapter 1: DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS

When professional authors want to show a Point-of-View character's emotion, they describe what it feels like physically.

Right now, you have a wonderful opportunity to research how emotions feel like physically. You're probably experiencing emotions you've never felt before, or emotions that are much more intense than you've ever experienced. Indeed, your emotion may be so strong, it feels like you're bursting!

Use this experience constructively. Observe where in the body you can feel this emotion, and how it feels. Write it down.

Examples:
I feel anger. Acid bubbles in my stomach.
I feel frustration. My shoulder muscles feel tight, like they've been boil-washed and shrunk.
I feel guilt. There's a heavy weight in my chest.
I feel anxiety. There's a string of small knots in my stomach.
I feel depression. The front part of my brain feels like it's in a fog.

During a crisis, it's natural if your strongest emotions are negative, for example, worry, anxiety, resentment, anger, irritation, frustration, confusion, hope, stress, shock, fear, loneliness, disgust, suspicion, fury, guilt... Positive emotions are rarer, though you will probably experience moments of hope, relief or gratitude.

Don't judge yourself for feeling what you do. Simply observe.
If you have a mix of emotions churning your insides, choose the one that's most intense.

Where in the body do you feel it? In your stomach, your chest, the nape of your neck, your bowels, your throat? How does it feel? Is it a pressure, tingling, scratching, rolling, churning, tightening, expanding...? Perhaps it feels hot or cold? Maybe it urges you to do something - to go to the toilet, to drink water, to touch the person you love, to flee the presence of a threat? Does it remind you of something - if yes, of what?

Just write it down. The writing style is unimportant at this stage. What matters is that you record the physical sensation. Later, when you use the emotion in your fiction project, you can edit it to suit that fictional character and situation, and fine-tune the writing style.

This exercise is incredibly powerful on two levels:

1. Writing Boost

Identifying your own emotion, observing where in the body you feel them and how, is a powerful tool for a fiction writer. The descriptions you take now, while you feel this emotion intensely yourself, will allow you to describe a PoV character's similar emotions in a future work of fiction vividly, with authenticity and originality. This will really power up your writing to the extent that your readers will feel those emotions themselves.

2. Wellbeing Boost

You may have discovered that when you labelled and described that emotion in the assignment, it lost some of its hold over you, and you felt less angry, worried, tense. This method is actually used in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy; identify the emotion that bothers you, label it, observe where in the body you feel it and how it feels, and describe it. When clients do this, they feel better, because now they own the emotion, instead of the emotion owning them.

With this book, you're performing practical self-therapy at the same time as powering up your writing.

I think this is great, especially when you're in the grip of a crisis, emotionally battered, stressed and vulnerable. You can apply this technique any time you need it. No need to see a therapist - just do it yourself. Give your wellbeing and your writing a boost at the same time.

Years ago, when I suffered from severe depression (an emotional disorder caused by a malfunction of the brain's supply of chemicals), I went to a therapist who taught me this technique. I found it helpful for managing my emotions - and I immediately saw the benefit this would have for my writing.

The therapist - who had never before treated a writer - was astonished how quickly I grasped the concept and how completely I embraced it.

Actually, I think we writers gain even greater therapeutic benefit from this exercise than 'normal' people. By putting those emotions to constructive use, we're really asserting that we're the boss, and the emotions are working for us, not the other way round. This is wonderfully empowering.

HOW TO USE THIS IN YOUR FICTION

One day a character in a story you're writing will feel a similar emotion. Then you will be able to use your own authentic, vivid observations. They'll be more interesting, original and compelling than bland 'telling' or cliched descriptions.

I recommend that you keep a file where you collect emotions, with your personal descriptions. This will become your encyclopedia to which you can refer while writing.
("Ah, he feels anger now. Let's see how I've described anger when I felt it myself.")

ASSIGNMENTS

1. Describe the physical 'symptom' of an intense emotion you currently feel.

2. Does the Point-of-View character in your Work-in-Progress experience a similar emotion at some stage of the story? If yes, adapt your observation and build it into the scene.


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