Anger as Motivation for Writing

Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition

Neologisms, Buzz Words & Slang

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I'm currently reading Writers' Vault Of Gold, the free download available on The Bestseller Experiment website. Written by Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux, they interviewed many famous authors about their writing lives, including one of my heroes John Connolly.

He has a pragmatic approach to the writing process, which he thinks comes from his training as a newspaper journalist constantly faced with deadlines. In closing, he recommends the power of having a deep-seated need to prove something to the world as motivation for being a writer:

Never underestimate the power of a chip on your shoulder. I’ve been told by my father that

people like us don’t become writers, we work for the council. When I worked for the Irish

Times I was told I’d be an okay hack in the end. Never underestimate the power of proving

people wrong. I’d like to say something more positive than that, but contented people never

really do anything. In my creative life, contentment is the enemy of all things. Prove people

wrong. Prove that you can be a writer.

I previously posted a thread on the theme of why we write, but, I hadn't really considered anger as an element of what inspires me to be a writer. It's certainly there, if only because I'd have been mad at myself if I hadn't sat down to write all of the stories buzzing around inside my head—giving form to the 'but what ifs?' at the core of many plots. I wouldn't want to be on my deathbed regretting never having written a book.

Also, there's an element of wanting to prove people wrong, to show that I've got the tenacity to see a book project all of the way through from an idea to attracting a readership. I've led the life of a wanderer, drifting through a couple of careers and many, many jobs, but of anything that I've done, I enjoy being a writer the most! I've become myself.

To keep at it—to fuel self-motivation—needs lots of grit/determination/bloody-mindedness/anger. As George Bernard Shaw observed:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

To make a book exist out of thin air requires a writer being unreasonable about how much time and effort they devote to creating a story. It might not change the world much, but you may influence someone who recognises the truth of your words—you've made a human connection.

You've also validated your own existence.

Are you proving anyone wrong by being a writer?

Have you ever got back at anyone by basing a character on them? The closest I came to doing this, was in describing a murderer, the antagonist in The Perfect Murderer, who was loosely based on a long-dead man I'd known. Or, who I'd thought I'd known, for he kept everyone at an arm's length compartmentalising his life with ruthless efficiency. People encountered different versions of him: the golfers described a man unlike that who rubbed shoulders with the church bell-ringers, and neither of these groups knew of his membership of the Freemasons. His chameleon-like nature inspired me to call my serial killer 'The Lizard.' I wasn't so much angry at him, more totally mystified, which made him an ideal basis for a deceitful killer.

I tackle subjects that anger me—refugees and human trafficking, PTSD among war veterans, violence against the vulnerable, homelessness and 'spin doctors' who manipulate people's thinking. I don't 'write angry', but I do try to make readers think about things in a different way.

Do you tackle subjects that make you angry?


(Not me!)
Great thread-starter, @Paul Whybrow. I worked for a publisher who told me that when people turned up for interviews or sent in proposals, he would look for what he called the 'lean and hungry' factor, people who were desperate to get a foot in the door or succeed. They would work harder than anyone else, they had a burning inner motivation.

I don't want to produce socio-economic treatises, but I do write fiction about issues that concern me or outrage me: sexual violence, homophobia, racism, family tyrannies, corporate greed, climate change, addiction, slavery, war. When it's close to the bone, the passion comes through.
The lean and hungry. Caesar was right to beware of them. Only one thing makes me angry when it comes down to it, and that's cruelty. I'm one of those folk teachers and doctors haven't always liked, on that account, I do detest a bully, I'll make 'trouble' if I think I'm dealing with one, but do I write about cruelty? Yes and no. Not as such, but you can't write about people or the world around you, without the recognition of cruelty.

Nature red in tooth and claw and the Humanists can shriek all they like, humanity is part of it, subject to it, a scourge upon it, and also a tragic victim of its own success.

ADD cruelty wears many forms, of course, and most issues boil down to it one way and another. I do agree, and it's been my experience that, I don't know about anger, but pain is a spur, not only to write but to do many things one might not do, if there was an absence of urgency and challenge.
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Hm. Lots of stuff to be angry about, but I think it's easy just to come across as shouty, whiny and bitter if that's all that drives the story. I don't really know where stories come from, it's all a bit mysterious, but I do suspect that if one sets out to write something just to get even or make a point then the end result will not be pleasing to many.
Fab thread indeed. It strikes a chord certainly and yes, recently I was so pumped by certain circumstances that have forced me to write from the heart for the first time ever. I actually gave myself permission to feel the writing onto the page rather than plan it methodically and, do you know what, it read so much better.
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Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition

Neologisms, Buzz Words & Slang