A few months ago, I downloaded a sample of the book Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It’s a story about a young teenage girl who is raped and murdered. What makes the book especially compelling is that the story is told from the perspective of the young girl as she witnesses her family’s response to her tragic death from heaven. Several of my friends have raved about it and it’s a NY Times bestseller. Although the premise is incredibly distasteful to me, I finally read the sample last week.
The first chapter was so horrifying that at first, I couldn’t understand why it was a best seller. It took me about a week to calm down after reading it. This definitely isn’t my type of story, but I can appreciate what a good writer Alice Sebold is. Her writing evoked such a strong emotional response that it made me sick to my stomach.
So it made me think about how I’ve been approaching my own writing. I’ve been focused on writing from the heart. What about writing from the gut?
What’s the difference? That’s a fair question. For some people, maybe there’s no difference. For me, my romance and “feel good” stories are from the heart. Stories from the gut put the reader through an emotional wringer. They are far more visceral than stories from the heart because they tap into more primitive instincts. I think that first chapter from Lovely Bones was a good example of writing from the gut. When that girl is attacked and killed in the first chapter, all I felt was primal rage. I wanted to hurt the guy who would hurt a young girl. I trust that anyone with a spark of humanity would feel the same way.
So, I wanted to see if I could write a scene that evoked a similar visceral response from a reader. I have a general idea for a story and a character named Shivani Roy. We’re still getting acquainted with each other. In fact, I’m not even sure how old she is yet, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that she’s fourteen years old. In this writing exercise, I threw her into a “visceral” situation to see how she’d handle herself.
My “visceral” situation was inspired by a recent news story. Have any of you read about the Jared Fogle situation? You know, the Subway dude and his illicit activities with underage girls? After spending a few weeks screaming obscenities each time I drove by a Subway, I finally decided to channel my rage into a more productive activity. I wrote out a scene between a guy like him and my kick-ass protagonist, Shivani Roy. Here it is: Shivani Roy and the Demon King of Lanka.
TO MY READERS: If you took the time to read the story, thank you. I’d love to get your feedback. Did this story make you mad? I hope it inspires you to channel some of your outrage into your own stories from the gut. If so, please share them with me! I’d love to read them.