Writing while angry
Anger and frustration are familiar emotions to anyone on a mission. How to leverage them in your writing.
I am not an angry person by nature. Confronted with unbearable unfairness, I'm likely to end up crying--right before dusting myself off and putting together a plan (you guys already know of my love for plans). But extreme unfairness coupled with desperation, a death in my family, and one too many instances of people lying to get ahead, did it for me last week.
I stood in my front porch, key poised against the keyhole, and I shook from sheer outrage. Goosebumps raised every hair on my arms, and I swear my scalp tingled.
My first impulse was to hide. To run to the safety of one of my favorite stories and curl up between its covers. Instead, I brewed the largest kettle of tea, settled inside my office, and closed the door.
Writing from the emotion itself is both healing and practical.
Oh, no great writing. Angry. Despondent. At times childish and decidedly maniacal. But in the process, something interesting happened. The writing itself took over. Somehow, between the aimless enumeration of grievances and the discovery of a thread in my disappointment and sense of betrayal, anger gave way to creation.
Writing from the emotion you're feeling is powerful. It is authentic, and this shines through.
The Rage Point
A valuable piece of advice I've always tried to follow recommends including a "rage" scene in every novel. A moment of reckoning when the volume is turned up, and emotions spill over the top and out the page. The advice is sound. Imagine your MC losing it because of the laundry list of complications you've been piling on them (and for which, since you've done your job well, they see no solution).
Imagine them screaming in that raspy supersonic sound we make when we've reached the loudest our larynx allows--feel the scratch in their throat, the heat on the cheeks. Watch them railing, stomping their feet, and give them an interlocutor. Have them lash out at their love interest while the poor sacrificial lamb tries to calm them down with useless rational truths. Let them shout at them, breaking something if you dare, and then accidentally say something unforgivable--firmly below the belt. And then? A gasp.
Do you feel the tension? Are you there with them?
Anger's raw and instinctual power can be a perfect tool in the writer's arsenal.
The catharsis of rage imbues your story with power. If the reader's interest was flagging, by now, you've recaptured it. They might hate your Main Character for their idiocy, but boy, are they paying attention. Because anger is one of the rawest emotions. And one we all relate to. It's instinctual and base, and therefore it is a perfect tool in the writer's arsenal. Like I'm-rubbing-my hands-together-while-planning-world-domination good. A writer can use anger. Both in life and on paper, if harnessed, it can be a mighty teacher.
If you've ever woken up wondering why you insist on keeping at this thankless craft, take heart. For once, we have an advantage over everyone else. We, writers, are a bit like dumpster divers. Or hoarders of experiences. We don't throw any interaction away--we check a plastic wrap of a scene with a neighbor three times to make it might not come in handy one day.
Writers are hoarders of experiences. We can't help but use life in its entirety for the benefit of stories.
We are used to turning the discarded and the shabby into gold. Every experience good, bad, or in between can weave its way into a story, add depth to a character, give a quirky detail for comic relief, or provide subtlety. By habit, we hoard our observations, and if we accidentally borrow the way someone speaks in the process (sorry, Joanne--I promise it wasn't on purpose)... Well, we hope we're forgiven. Because we can't help but use life in its entirety for the benefit of stories.
So next time the world kicks you to the curb and the door hits you on the way out, rail, and then sit down. And write that nasty feeling down.
Dare, always. Keep writing.