Write Angry!

October Flash Club is now open

Hello to the new members!

Not open for further replies.

Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I recently wrote a chapter of my sixth Cornish Detective novel Kissing & Killing, in which my protagonist is swept away by a rip current while swimming in the sea trying to improve his stamina as he recuperates from being stabbed and losing a lot of blood.

He’s just returned to work, so is anxious to reassert his image as a commander and to take charge of his own life again after being dependent on others while hospitalised. Although Neil Kettle is a powerful wild swimmer, I’ve set him up for being dominated by the ocean, by having him acknowledge that “the sea is unopposably mighty” in the five preceding stories.

This fits with writing advice to place your main character in peril, not once but twice, just as it looks like they’ve survived. Having humility forced on him will be part of one of the themes of the story—loyalty to friends over principles and the rule of law—who do you trust with your life?

Writing this chapter was slightly disturbing to me, as I experienced such an incident when I lived in Portsmouth. Out for the day with my girlfriend and fellow college students on Eastney beach, I went for a swim alone. Fifty yards out in a flat sea, I was suddenly picked up by an invisible hand and moved at some speed westwards. I remembered advice not to panic when in a rip current, but to try swimming at 90 degrees to it to break free. I tried, but it didn’t work. I relaxed, watching the beach pass by. Thankfully, the current stayed parallel to the land, not carting me out into the Solent. As Southsea pier appeared, it released me. My muscles worked again! I swam to shore, then walked half-a-mile back to my friends...no one had missed me!

Being so powerless helped to inform my writing. I wrote humble.

I’ve written fight scenes while remembering angry thoughts I had when defending myself in muggings. I shed a few tears writing sad scenes summoning how I felt when a relationship ended. Writing funny is tough, but recalling amusing situations helps.

I gave up alcohol in 1996, but after being an alcoholic for twenty-seven years, I remember enough to write drunk.

We discussed how anger can be motivation for following a writing career in an old thread, but how do you use memories of how you felt to pen something that rings true?

I find emotion useful in writing prose, however I try to keep myself at enough of a distance to look at my writing objectively.

When it comes to writing poetry however, I'm all emotion, as my poetry tends to be for me, instead of a commercial venture.
There's an acting term - method acting - that I apply to writing. I become the character, and let them 'take me over' so the story can be all them.
Weird, yes, but effective. I even have 'bits' of stuff to indicate the character, and take them off when I've finished writing. One char always wore a scarf, so when I wrote as her, I wore the scarf.
It can be effective.
If you don't feel emotional when writing how can you expect a reader to feel it? For me, it is not a technique it is essential. I have no trouble getting inside my characters as in one form or another they are all people I have known. I am not sure it is possible to make up character without first experiencing it.
Not open for further replies.

October Flash Club is now open

Hello to the new members!