I was sorting through some handouts yesterday from grief workshops I used to conduct in my role as a hospital chaplain. Several about anger were clipped together, and when I glanced through them I realized that I have always had a problem around anger. Probably because I grew up in a family that had no clue about the healthy ways to express that particular emotion. Anger tended to erupt like some dormant volcano, and I would run to avoid the flow of lava.
It took me a long time to realize how much that instinct to run away from anger and confrontation affected my writing. I could be working on a scene that had some major conflict between two characters, and I would quickly insert reason and bring the level of conflict down.
This was pointed out to me by Stephen Marro, a producer/director in New York that I worked with for a while doing script editing and doctoring. We also wrote a few scripts together. He would come up with the ideas and the basic story beats, and I was to flesh them out. He read one of my scenes and then asked, “Where’s the beef, Maryann? These people are talking this conflict to death.”
So, much like I had to force myself to allow my characters to use colorful language (see my post at The Blood Red Pencil) I had to force myself to let my characters get really angry and ratchet up the conflict.
What about you? Are there emotions that you struggle with in your writing? How hard is it for you to separate yourself from your characters?