Au-then-tic: not false or copied; genuine
I heard an interview with Taylor Swift, and the questioner asked how she came up with ideas for her songs. Swift said, "I go to high school and write about it." And then she added, "And I try to write with authenticity."
Sounds so simple! Many of her songs chronicle high school angst, yet they resonate with people of all ages. It seems to me we could follow the breadcrumbs of her songs, and see what she was experiencing at the time it was written.
I don't have all the answers, but when I thought about what it meant to write with authenticity, here's what I came up with:
Be true to your writerly self
I'm amazed by the successes of fantasy and dystopian novels, but I doubt I'd ever write one. I marvel at the creativity involved in building a whole new world, and I'm impressed by those of you who write in those genres. I gravitate toward contemporary dramas, and know that that's where my authentic writerly self belongs. Not that I'd shy away from a different genre if I felt compelled to experiment with something new.
Your unique life experiences add value to your stories
I love the idea that only we can tell our stories. In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott tells how she handed out a writing assignment to each student, and even though the topic was the same, she received a different story from each student. We each view life differently and handle situations in ways that no one else can duplicate. I love how this transfers to our writing. No one else can authentically write exactly what we've written.
Tap in to genuine emotions
We've each felt love, fear, shame, happiness, pride, and embarrassment, and sometimes it's easier to bury the bad stuff and only remember the good. But if we dig deep, remember it all, and write about it, our work will shine with authenticity. At least that's what I'm hoping for.
David Morrell said, "You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, 'This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I'm doing the best I can--buy me or not--but this is who I am as a writer.'"
Tell me, what does writing with authenticity mean to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Great post. And I love Taylor Swift songs. I've said for a long time she sings YA--all of her songs tell a story.ReplyDelete
But what do you do when your writerly self is consistently between genres--when you like the real world with a little bit of magic? And you're sick of hearing it needs to be "more paranormal or contemp"
For me it means writing what comes from deep inside me, not trying to come up with a plot or a plot twist. It means the writing is much slower in coming, but I think it's authentic. At least I hope so.ReplyDelete
Following your own voice is a big one! If your writing is just a patchwork of other writers' styles, it'll show.ReplyDelete
It can be hard to find that voice, but the more you write, the easier it will come.
Beth asked a great question, and I thought this quote might help:ReplyDelete
“You should really stay true to your own style. When I first started writing, everybody said to me, ‘Your style just isn’t right because you don’t use the really flowery language that romances have.’ My romances—compared to what’s out there—are very strange, very odd, very different. And I think that’s one of the reasons they’re selling.”
Great post. You've hit it right on the head with your points, Julie.ReplyDelete
I understand the authenticity part. As a living historian, I strive to be as authentic as possible in my presentation. I also strive for it in my writing. I hope it comes across.
Cool topic! You're right, too. And it's a good reminder, be true to yourself or you aren't doing anyone any favors.ReplyDelete
These are good points to remember when I suffer writer's envy. When I think I'll never be able to write like one of my fave authors, I know that's a good thing, and I know no one else can write like I can either!ReplyDelete
Great post, Julie and I love the breadcrumbs line. I try and let real life have a bit of an influence even in the silly stuff. I think it helps make them unique and meaningful.ReplyDelete
It means write the story you want to tell, plain and simple.ReplyDelete
And so true that we could all write on one subject and come up with something different.
So true. Feelings are universal, but experiences are unique.ReplyDelete
i agree with you completely. Alex says it nicely tooQReplyDelete
I'm so with you on this one. To me, it's telling a story dear to me that only I can really tell. Does that make sense? My characters would be different if someone else wrote them, and that breaks my heart. :)ReplyDelete
Love this! I believe we should write what we love to read - that's where our hearts lie :)ReplyDelete
I never thought I could write historical YA. When I found a story I had to write, I immersed myself in the history until I could have that authenticity that you speak of. Sometimes it may not come naturally, but with effort, it can happen.ReplyDelete
OMG, and you referenced Anne Lamott too! I love you! Following.ReplyDelete
To be honest, I'm not sure I have found my 'authentic' writerly position yet. I do love fantasy and sci-fi, but I'm not sure I'm amazingly good at the world-building. Part of me thinks that contemporary is where it's at for me too. And adults.ReplyDelete
Tapping into genuine emotions really makes a story fantastic. I love it when authors do that!ReplyDelete
I saw this post on the commentluv for Margo Berendson's blog and had to come by. Totally agree!!ReplyDelete
Wow. Powerful stuff here. I think going into our worlds and finding our voice via guilt, embarrassment, pain, pride, love, fear, etc., can be a very scary thing. And yet conquering that fear is the only thing that will make us authentic. Peeling back the layers, and being bold to show what's underneath. Taylor has figured it out.ReplyDelete
I like the idea that writing with authenticity means believing in what's happening on the page.ReplyDelete
I think it's tapping into the emotions not trying to be someone you're not.ReplyDelete
Great post Julie - so simple, yet so hard for many of us to master. Excellent!ReplyDelete
Fabulous subject and post! I agree that we each view life in a unique way and are influenced in different ways that translate into our writing. No one else can duplicate what comes from someone else's experiences and perspective. This sort of authenticity is amazing and wonderful.ReplyDelete
Tapping into genuine emotions are important. Responses to traumatic events need to be realistic. Even life changing. Too often I read characters too strong to be affected by traumatic events that are simply not realistic.ReplyDelete
This is a hard question. I always know when I have the voice right in a story, but it isn't necessarily anything like my (real) voice. I think it has to do with authenticity. You can kind of channel characters who are very unlike yourself so long as your feeling for them is authentic. Now, how to define "authenticity" is another tricky wicket.ReplyDelete
Great post! I agree it's important to be authentic in your writing. I'm like you--the only stories I can see myself writing (for now) are contemporary stories. Though some of the other genres are "hotter" in the market and those writers may get bigger advances, I wouldn't be able to write one authentically. I'm okay with that because I love what I am writing.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the post.ReplyDelete
AUTHENTICITY is one of the most powerful words for life and writing.
You said it ALL, and with such eloquence, too! When folks say to write what you know, I think it can be interpreted to mean just those things you said: write the kind of book you like to read, tap into your own experiences to bring the characters alive, and infuse the emotions you have suffered through to bring it all home for the reader. Well said once again, Julia!ReplyDelete
I like just what you said - I have to be true to my own voice and style or else my work will be "less than" and my readers will wonder if I were hit on the head with one of Stephen King's latest books *laughing* Okay, I love Stephen King so that's just a joke about how huge his books can be :-D.ReplyDelete
Yes, we are all individual writers, and this is a great reminder post! No one can write a story like we can, even with the same plot. :)ReplyDelete
My thought is, "I think you've nailed it." We do have to find our stories, find our emotions, and then write what we have to say. And the cool part is even if stories are similar, they Can't be the same because we're all different and so are our voices. Great post, Julie! :o)ReplyDelete
I agree with you about the difficulty of creating an entire fantasy world. I even have trouble entering one when I read a fantasy novel. To me writing with authenticity means being able to hear the characters in my head and being able to see them as if I were watching a film (quite often in cartoon style).ReplyDelete
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Its being true to the story and also letting our unique and individual way of storytelling come across to the readers.ReplyDelete
Digging into those authentic emotions is so hard sometimes. I think that's what that famous quote is about-- when we write we just "open a vein." Sounds simple, but it's not! It takes work and headaches. But it can be so rewarding when we pull it off!ReplyDelete
Great post, Julie!
Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)
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