Have you ever stopped writing and realized how comfortable, how nice your story feels? Has that ever prompted you to do everything you possibly can to tear that peaceful feeling away from yourself, to challenge yourself to take a risk and go where you said you’d never go?
It’s time to change that, dear writer. Here are five storytelling risks you’re not ready to take, but should take anyway.
1. Letting them get away with it
Guilt is a very powerful, mind-twisting emotion. What if your whole story is about someone getting away with something unspeakable? It’s an emotion we all know and understand no matter the reason, and using it can be a very effective storytelling tool. Sometimes, people get away with things. They are never caught. When you think of the formula crime thriller, someone usually gets what they deserve for the terrible thing they’ve done. Let them get away with it. See what that does to your characters and how it shapes them.
Think of The Lovely Bones. He technically never gets caught for what he did to our poor MC, even though he does sort of get what’s coming to him in the end.
2. Giving the happy ending to the “wrong” character
Not everyone gets a happy ending when the main storyline comes to a close. Dare to give that happy ending to the character you don’t want to be happy for. That sends readers, and probably you, too, into a whirlwind of all kinds of mixed feelings. “It’s not supposed to happen that way!” Life very rarely works out the way we expect it to. Reflect that in your story.
3. Writing the exact opposite of what you want to write
One trap we often fall into when we’re writing is letting our personal feelings get in the way of telling the best possible story. Sometimes we need to look at where we want to take the story, turn around and go in the completely opposite direction. If you want Character A and Character B to be together forever, break them up. If you want your MC to win the contest, let someone else win. Go with the unexpected. You need to be able to surprise and shake up your readers. If you’re way too comfortable with your story, your readers will be too.
However, this doesn’t mean you should never write what you want to write. Your gut is trustworthy. Most of the time, it knows what’s best.
4. Ignoring that voice telling you not to go there
As a writer, your gut instinct is very rarely wrong – and if you do end up writing something and aren’t happy with it, your gut will (rightfully) convince you to get it right the second time. Don’t steer your story away from where it’s meant to go just because it’s too dark or too happy or too complicated. There is no such thing. Go there. Let your story unfold the way it was originally meant to. Dare to write that scene, build that character, end that relationship. Taking the safe road does not yield a good story.
5. Turning a personal experience into a message of hope
We write about things that have happened to us recently or in the past, both good and bad. It’s what helps us cope. For many writers, writing about personal experiences is sort of like therapy. More fictional stories have come out of this kind of writing than you probably realize. Don’t be afraid to use what you’ve been through, even just as a foundation, to send a positive message to your readers. Here’s some more advice on how you can do that.
Telling a story is complicated. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, not really. It’s all about getting comfortable … and then launching yourself right out of that comfort zone.
Take a risk. Dare to write what you’ve never written before.
Image courtesy of Cyril Vallée/flickr.com.