I took the title of this blog from a Paloma Faith song. It’s about a woman in a relationship who hides her true self out of fear of being rejected. When I first heard the song, the title so resonated in me that I found it applies to pretty much every aspect of life. When it comes to writing, I find this question determines whether a work is considered literary or fluff. The grittier and more depressing a story is, the more it is hailed as brilliant and important. But when I finish a relentlessly sad book, not only do I have to convince myself that life is worth living, I also never read the book again.
Now this isn’t because I have some Pollyanna world view. Despite being raised by my biological, emotionally available, married-before-I-was-conceived parents, I know firsthand that most people are looking out for themselves and don’t mind wrecking your life in the process. They will use whatever blunt instrument is handy to demean, degrade and undermine you out of existence. That is the truth and if you don’t get hip, you will be chewed up and spit out before anyone even knows you’re here. But I’ve also seen kindness, heroism, generosity and love shown without a demand for anything in return. Those people may be few and far between, but to act as if they don’t exist is to deny the truth.
The same goes with storytelling. When you read a book or watch a movie, your subconscious turns on what I call the Tripe-O-Meter. If the character’s emotional response mirrors real life, our Tripe-O-Meter stays at zero. But when the character accepts an intolerable situation without explanation or acknowledgment, the Meter gets to rumbling. If the good guy treats his friends like dirt and never gets called out, there goes the Meter. When we’re told by every character that the basic girl is ‘amazing and unusual’, we call Tripe. You may not detect the Meter going off—it might be the feeling that something didn’t sit right. You wonder what bothered you Continue reading