Bleed on the Page

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David
The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David


(For the record, the image has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post. Actually I thought Socrates died from being bled to death, but now I think that was some other famous person…Anyways! I like the painting so it stays. Moving on!)


I realized something.

My post yesterday was really me asking for permission.

First off,  let me just straight out and say up front that once you’re an adult, you don’t need to ask permission for anything.

But bad habits die hard or should I say childhood-self-defense-mechanisms die hard.

I was asking permission to write posts that were a bit more personal. I already knew I wanted to write them, I was just afraid to. I wanted reassurance that it will be okay if I do.

This realization is a good one because I have the exact same problem with my fiction writing as well.  It’s probably my biggest issue with my Eternals WIP (The title is now ironic since it does seem to be taking an eternity for me to finish the damn thing). I don’t dig deep enough. My character’s emotions are too shallow, just on the surface of their true inner demons. I don’t take the reader deeper into their conflicts and feelings, which is why it lacks voice and style. It lacks feeling.

But bleeding on the page takes guts! It’s freaking scary!

To make the reader feel my character’s pain means I have to feel it too. And then of course there’s the troubling “it’s crap” fear of doom. Back when I was an angsty teen, whenever I shared too much I often…got the opposite result of what I’d like.

No one likes a whiner. But this isn’t whining. I’m not talking about melodrama or exaggeration. This is about expressing pure truth, which is why I love fiction. Fiction can reveal truth more powerfully than reality because that is its purpose.

A good story, a powerful story, is telling a powerful truth and making you experience it through words, images and/or music in ways we cannot experience otherwise (or experienced rarely).

I’ve seen news about soldiers dying on the front line all the time. I can watch an entire hour on an entire conflict on the news about how hundreds of people were dying and I wouldn’t feel a thing.

Now. Give me a good documentary or movie or novel about the exact same or similar conflict, and I’ll be a bawling mess.

In reality, we hide our true feelings. We have to. There are people who will run all over your feelings and make you feel worthless. Make you feel like something is wrong with you because of what you’re feeling, because half the time they don’t understand or get it anyways.

But with writing, good writing, you can use the perfect words or as perfect as they can be so they can get it, and can understand. And you have to. You have to bleed on the page.

Well, if you want to make unforgettable, believable characters and stories that put you in a mood for days.

And I want to.

So I guess that means I gotta stop asking permission, grow a pair, and slice a vein.

Just a nick.

5 thoughts on “Bleed on the Page

Add yours

  1. You are so right about that.

    Especially if a writer is hesitant to truly explore the nature of the emotions being represented on the page, I’ve found that the initial drafts of a novel can sort of come off feeling disconnected. Like, as you mentioned in this post, one can feel when watching the news. You see the horror, you understand the horror intellectually, but you don’t feel it in your core. But when you’re revising that novel for the first or even the umpteenth time, definitely gotta open that vein and bleed it out.

    1. Exactly. I suppose they should add that to rewriting advice: do a pass and add some heart to your scenes.

  2. You’re exactly right. Be prepared, though, to bleed on the page, pour yourself into your characters – and have readers still not like it. As you probably already know, it hurts even more when that happens.

    But screw it, that’s all just part of the game. 🙂

    1. I suppose that is why they always say writers need to build a tough skin. But sometimes I think that’s impossible and at best just use the pain for motivation to write better.

  3. Loved the imagery you used there, and couldn’t agree more, especially with the bit about how scary it is to do that.

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