brni (brni) wrote,


Got an interesting compliment today from someone who read my most recently published story (The Red Danube, in Betwixt Magazine).

"A thing that warms me about your writing: it doesn't flinch from things that hurt, and it isn't stopped by them."

Stories are like icebergs: the vast bulk of them is never seen by the reader, and in the writing of the story, even the author never sees the whole of it. We get glimpses of this huge mass, lurking under the surface, and we explore the bits that seem most interesting and bring them up into view. Sometimes shaking one piece loose from the aqueous depths will bring up more than we expect.

Our job as writers is to explore what we can, bring what we can to the surface, and then shape that into a compelling narrative. In the shaping, there are things that are pushed back into the water, some so deep the reader will never know, and some that will lie just under the surface, hints and shadows. These are the choices we make to find the best story, and the best expression of the story, that we're able to at the time.

So there's always stuff that's left off the page. Because it doesn't enhance the narrative. Because it introduces a distracting subplot. Because it makes the story run too long. Because it's inappropriate for the intended audience. All sorts of valid reasons.

But "because it hurts" isn't a valid reason.

When that treacherous chunk of ice breaks loose and bobs to the surface, hard and sharp as broken glass, you can't flinch. You have to pull it out and explore it, no matter that it leaves you tattered and bleeding, and then use it if the story calls for it, or put it back if it doesn't.

But if you put it back "because it hurts," it's a lie. And it only takes one lie, the one you lie about because it HURTS, to make the whole story a lie.
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