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Writing for yourself, and why it’s important to CARE

Buy this book. It's really rather good.

Buy this book. It’s really rather good.

I have to admit to a guilty secret. I write for myself. Every story that has been (or hasn’t been) published, has been written with me as the reader in mind.

I know that this probably goes against the grain of advice, but I once tried to write a story for the reader, and for a genre that is particularly popular (romance if you’re wondering) and I couldn’t actually get past the first paragraph. If I was to involve romance, it would have to be a minor part of a book that was filled with blood, guts and revenge. One which I’ve actually sketched out and started to write years ago. And which I might well revisit.

But straight romance was, quite simply, utterly boring to me. I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm to even write, let alone actually care about the characters I’d invented.

And that, to me, is key. You have to care about the characters you invent, even the ones that are effectively red shirts. They do something good/bad, and then they die. Even the bad ones would have had someone that had loved and cared for them at some point in their (fictional) lives. I think that it shows if you don’t care about your characters. Mark Lawrence is one such author. In one utterly horrific scene involving a dog, he destroys his main character, it’s one of the defining moments of the series. But, for me, the main character wasn’t important. The dog was the character of that scene and I could tell from the writing and what he told me later in a conversation on Facebook, that Lawrence cared for the dog. I cried reading it. He cried writing it. This talk of crying brings me on to another piece I once had to write when I was still a martial arts journalist.

I once had to write a eulogy for a man that I’d never met. He was the best friend of a good friend of mine. My friend had written a eulogy and wanted to get it published in one of the martial arts magazines I was working for at the time. I took his article and fleshed it out, keeping all of the feeling that my friend had put into it. By the end of it, I was crying for a man that I had never met, but who I wished I had. I sent the draft over to my friend for approval, and he too wept for the man he had known.

If I hadn’t started to care, that article could have been a dry piece of writing that marked the man’s passing, but which conveyed none of the emotion behind it.

So, if you’re thinking about writing, make sure you a) like the subject you’re writing for and b) you have to care about your characters.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7. Matthew was Features Editor, Technical Consultant and regular columnist for magazines such as ‘Fighters’, ‘Combat’, ‘TKD & Korean Martial Arts’ and ‘Traditional Karate’. These are the four leading martial arts magazines in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed 'Practical Taekwondo: Back to the Roots', which has been sold around the world. With regard to his martial arts background he has been studying martial arts since 1991. In 1995 he hosted Professor Rick Clark of the ADK and since then has been studying pressure points and their uses in the martial arts and on the street (initially as a Special Constable and as a Door Supervisor). All of this practical hands-on experience means that he is uniquely placed to write fight scenes that are not only plausible but some of which are based on personal or anecdotal experience. Matthew has had a number of short stories published by Fringe Works, KnightWatch Press, Anderfam Press and Emby Press.


2 thoughts on “Writing for yourself, and why it’s important to CARE

  1. I am SO glad I’m not the only one who conects with his characters like this. I go so far as to occasionally feel guilty about what I put them through. Seriously. There’s a character named Lumen in my second novel who is put through hell (masterly use of the passive voice there), and the guilt I feel is at times palpable. It’s not like he’s a bad person and thus could be said to deserve it, nor that it’s essential for his world that he suffer. No, instead he suffers merely for my story, a situation that casts me in the role of a sadistic divinity. On the plus side, while I may not have much going for me in this world, there is another where I am feared as a GOD! Mwah-hah-hah-haaaa…


    Posted by Neil Roberts | October 31, 2015, 5:53 pm
  2. I like caring for characters that really don’t deserve any form of loving at all. Then yes, I’ll be more than happy to make them suffer 😛


    Posted by mattsylvester | November 11, 2015, 12:14 pm

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