Some writing aches with beauty and makes you feel like another person has distilled a truth of the universe that part of you had always known, but never fully articulated.
Some writing causes you to reflect and discover new aspects of yourself: the true soul of your soul.
Stories may awaken a sense of nostalgia in you, and leave you to ponder life and all of its impossible possibilities. Things that were once options but no longer are. Some writing reads like a half-sketched map of adventures not taken. Characters may live out a thousand versions of your life, had you chosen differently, or motivate you to reconsider your choices now.
Stories can be empowering, awe-inspiring, life-changing. I truly believe that.
And some writing is ugly. Some is supposed to be. Because writing reflects the human experience, and humans inevitably experience pain, misery and suffering. (This blog is not supposed to be a major downer, by the way, I’m just getting real here.) The other stuff is real, too. Absolutely. Love, joy, kindness and hope exist. Love is what makes living worthwhile. There are glorious moments where you realise that another person in this vast and too small universe understands the same thing you do; where kindness prevails, and magic shines in the everyday. We can’t lose sight of all the good, but failing to represent the grime of life in narrative form would be a mistake.
Which brings me back to writing ugly. I once told a writer friend that his story was too eloquent. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ he asked. I told him that he’d used a beautiful style for a moment that wasn’t beautiful. And there is a place for prose like Henry James’, but I thought this particular scene deserved raw emotion. My advice was to stop trying as hard and let the action play out. If a scene is brutal, then make me feel whiplashed. Use the language your story demands. Use words like ‘crush’, ‘ooze’, ‘smash’ and ‘grit’. Experiment with choppy sentences, blunt sounds. Subtlety can be wonderful, but certain situations call for a sledgehammering. So, bash me over the head with words. Try not to get caught up in the kind of writing that will make you feel consumed by a fatalistic view of the world, but give me something authentic. Characters are allowed to panic, to get scared or angry, and emotionally and physically beaten up. All of that’s okay, but it is nice to watch them fight, and will them to succeed, and to cheer when they do.
So, if you wanna give it a go, write ugly. It’ll make the light in your stories shine brighter.