I recently read a book that touched me in a way books rarely do. Don't get me wrong, I read a lot of books and have a lot of wonderful experiences with them. But it's rare that a book gets to me the way this one did. It changed the way I looked at the world, just a little. It made me gasp as it wrenched and healed my heart.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Read it, folks. I'll do a full-scale review next week, but for now, just know that this book is one that changed me. It's the book I wish I could write. I want to write books that capture people's minds and change their hearts. And I think I'm not alone in that desire. So the question is, how in the devil do we do that?
All the standard stuff applies. You've got to write a darn good book. But a good book doesn't mean a powerful book. The kind of book that changes people has a little something extra, that emotional core that readers can relate to at the most fundamental level.
In my freshman creative writing class, the professor made us all write a credo. A credo is a document where you state all the things that you strongly believe, no holds barred. You basically bear your soul about all the things you hold most dear. And then you use those things to write your stories.
Because only when you write about the things you believe to your core can you reach the core of a reader. This is hard. It is painful. It's even a little bit frightening sometimes. But if you really want to write a deep, powerful story, this is one way to do it.
1. Write your credo. It can be as simple as you want-- mine is just a string of sentences starting with "I believe..."
2. Read your credo. Think about what you want to write about. Which ideas give you a little thrill of fear? Mark them-- and then use those in your book.
3. Don't preach. When we write about things we believe, it can sometimes come across too didactic. Try to focus on asking the hard questions, not answering them. Let readers do the answering for themselves.
4. Write your heart out. That's one thing first drafts especially are great for-- writing from the heart. Tell your story, and don't be afraid to face those big bad beliefs.
Of course, that's all easier said than done. You don't have to go through those exact steps. You can start with a haunting question, or a single idea you feel clear to your core. Just find your heart, and write it. If your book can change even one reader, all that work is worth it.
So, my friends, do you have a credo? Have you written about the hard truths you firmly believe in? How do you face the fear? What books have you read that changed you?