Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writing Avoidance

I don't suffer from too many commonplace superstitions. I'm not afraid of the number thirteen; I don't think you have to be born in October to wear opals safely. A rabbit's foot to me only means the rabbit it belonged to had some bad luck. Black cats are welcome to cross my path any time.

It's the same with work. I do certain things that I think are more comfort rituals than actual superstitions, such as wearing an old green shirt on the day I'm going to finish writing a novel, or putting on socks or slippers when I'm working (weirdly, I've never been able to write when I'm barefoot.)

But I do avoid writing certain things in novels for various reasons. Dentists never make it into my stories; I've had too many bad experiences under their care and would no doubt do them great harm on the page. Neither do shrinks, teachers or chiropractors appear in my books for the same reason. They'd all be instant red shirts.

Characters named Sabra, Chastity, Noah and Madison never appear in my stories; I don't like those names. Scenes with animals relieving themselves seem utterly tacky to me (although I have no problem showing humans while they're in the powder room -- go figure that one out.) The most pretentious thing I ever saw another author do was write themselves into a novel as a character, using their real life identity and occupation for the character. I don't even like to write about characters who work as writers, and yet I'm fine with poets in a story.

I don't think there's any sense or logic to it. We like what we like. We avoid what we don't. Sometimes it's good to make ourselves write about something we always avoid (one of the reasons I wrote Roomies, to see if I could make writers funny versus boring.)

So what do you generally avoid putting in a story? Have you ever tried making yourself write something you'd rather not? Let us know in comments.


  1. I've made myself write something I'd rather not. I think this can turn out well if you let your voice have free reign; in other words, under what circumstances could you believe X thing, or what motive would make Y character's action not reprehensible. But writing what you can't believe does not work.

  2. I wrote my first erotic novella because I was so uncomfortable with writing sex scenes, so I made myself do it.
    Avoidance? I've noticed that most of my characters don't have much in the way of family. I think I know why, but I'm not inclined to change it. I have a notion that the feeling of isolation fleshes them out more as individuals.

  3. I have never killed a character, and I'm not sure if I could.

  4. Religion. I avoid it like the plague; probably because I studied history and know how devastating it can be. Plus, people get bent out of shape if you chose one religion over another.

    As for making myself write something? Um... as an organic writer, there's always something that pops up, like the death of a main character. If I've done the writing right, though, a death can be unavoidable, no matter how much you like 'em. Still shocks me when that happens.

  5. I avoid writing children. Odd creatures I don't understand.

  6. Anonymous7:47 AM

    Yes, I wrote something that I avoid like the plague. It took me four months to get through it (which is a very long time for me to write a novella). I agonized over it and hated it.

    My publisher loved it. Readers have really enjoyed it, but the thought of writing anything like it again puts my stomach into knots.

    I hate socks and shoes, so writing barefoot makes me more comfortable. :)

    Every time I start a new project, I have to have a notebook sitting right beside me. Whether I use it or not depends on the story, but I always have to have it.

  7. Anonymous8:16 AM

    I haven't been writing fiction long enough to force myself to write something I really don't like - I'll just be happy to finish the full length WIP - but I've noticed that for all the stories I've got lined up, outlined, sitting on the back burner - there no beta male heroes and, like Raine, all the heroines, at least, are orphans, cept for one whose mother is a monster. Don't know why - I have a wonderful mother. Also, I can't write in a different voice. I want to work on that.

  8. Made myself finish writing a book when it ended up taking a turn I didn't want it to take, at all, for personal reasons. It ended up being very therapeutic. Does that count?

  9. I take the professions and character names I don't like and use them as villains. It's like channeling the negativity into people who are meant to be negative. :shrug: I think it works for my writing, but the jury's still out.

  10. I have a really hard time writing extroverts: those people-people who are charming and funny and never met a person they don't like or can't talk to. I don't understand people who feel energized after a big party instead of exhausted.

    So, guess what kind of protagonist I'm writing now? Talk about writing the alien "other."

  11. I'm averse to writing certain acts of...ahem, physical expressions of love...because I don't in any way find them appealing or sexy or arousing. Even reading them I'm more likely to wince than find them hot and then skim the rest of the scene. So I'm guessing a career as a smashingly successful erotica writer is just not in my future.

  12. That's a really interesting question. I remember Lee Child mentioning on his message board that he does't write certain things on the page but I don't rememher what they were.

    Since I've had my son I have a really hard time writing anything about children coming to harm in any way.

    Before I became pregnant I could write about a missing child or abducted child, but not now. In fact, those news stories actually bring me to tears.

    I had to shelve a book I was working on while I was pregnant that dealt with pregnant women being kidnapped for their unborn babies. I still have it on my hard drive. Can't touch it.

    And now news stories about such happenings are all over the place. I take these things very personally. Writing about them makes me feel raw in my soul.

    I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

  13. I am writing my first, I have killed someone off, written a rape scene but am trying to get to grips with writing a seduction scene. I put it off, hide my notebook, lose my pen, walk the vineyards, anything to avoid writing it. I will get there I am sure :)

  14. I have a really hard time harming an animal in a story. People I have no trouble hurting, maiming, or killing, but no harm ever comes to an animal in my stories.

  15. Generic2:43 PM

    I've just recently noticed that I tend to write love scenes up to the point of, erm, insertion, and then close the bedroom door, leaving the couple to finish things up in private.

    Do not get.

  16. >>I have never killed a character, and I'm not sure if I could.

    I have! It was a "OMG I can't believe I just did that but dang I loved it!" heeh!

  17. I don't think I conciously (sp?) avoid anything...but maybe I do and don't realize it. Okay, maybe sick people. I don't like to see anyone sick.
    One pet peeve of mine is in movies where we see men standing at the urinal. Do we really need that scene? Can't they talk without peeing?

  18. Anonymous1:31 PM

    What a wonderful blog! I'm so glad I found it. I just spend the last hour looking though old posts.

    I only write non-fiction, mostly dry stuff, accounting and taxation. But I have been grappling with the idea for a book about sex-selective (female) abortion and female infanticide for almost two years, and I just can't get myself to do it. I've done the research, but even from a purely medical and/or historical perspective, the material is still very difficult to stomach. So I guess that's my firewall.

  19. AnnMarie2:46 AM

    Hey there!

    I don't write however I did want to mention the onlu character of yours that has ever made me cringe--"the social worker" She was a stereo typical negative portrayal. If I ever won the honor of adding something to one of your books, I would ask you to put in a worn out, dedicated and professional social worker :)



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