Monday, April 4, 2011

COMPASSION - the abcedaria of a writer

COMPASSION -  Now you folks out there who are writers or painters or clowns may wonder what compassion has to do with your chosen art. And because I have compassion for you, I'm going to explain.
Compassion needs to be extended to all, pervasively. And that includes to yourself. Compassion has two root words - com - meaning 'with' and pati which means 'to suffer'. To suffer with another is to have compassion. You suffer because they do. Easy to understand if you have a child or pet - when they are in pain, you wish them not to be. It is more than pity (which shares the root 'pati') because it is straight across from your heart to theirs - not from above. You are not pitying them - you are feeling what they feel.
How does this influence how a writer writes?
If you have compassion you will remember what it feels like to read a book, to become completely absorbed in the world of that book, and you will also remember those times when the writer discounted your basic needs as a reader. Perhaps they jerked you out of the fictive dream by some fat finger of their own ego sticking itself in. Maybe the writer introduced a plot line and then abandoned it so you were left with a question, or several, unanswered.  Or the writer had no compassion for herself and wrote a book full of wit but completely without heart. When the author is not true to herself, she is not being compassionate. When she doesn't care about those who read her books then she is not being compassionate.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that literary efforts have to be written in the style of gooey sentimentality (that is a discounting of readers' intelligence, after all) or full of high morals BUT if it isn't true then the reader will know. The reader might feel stupid for not knowing what is happening, or the references. The reader might feel like their natural vulnerability to characters and created stories is childish. All of these are signs that the artist, the writer, is not being compassionate.
Dare to be corny by times - dare to bravely show your vulnerability even if it isn't 'cool' or 'smart'.
How do bring compassion to your work?

25 comments:

mooderino said...

I agree, sometimes it feels corny to be openly emotional or vulnerable in a story, but at the right time it can be very satusfying to read.
cheers,
mood
Moody Writing

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I like this point of view, Jan! I've never thought of it that way, but I absolutely agree--we have to think of the reader. If we don't, there's no point in sharing our book at all...we might just as well keep it in a drawer.

Catherine Lavoie said...

Great post! When I was editing my first draft, I realized that my characters were too stiff... So I had to 'free' them and let them scream or cry or let them be vulnerable. Thanks for the follow! Looking forward to reading more! :)

Tundiel said...

*nods* There is a little bit of me in everything that I write. I also find that when I write about something that I have experienced myself, the writing itself is stronger.

My MC in my chick-lit is a swearing, accident-prone Cardiffian with a love for cats. Needless to say, it is almost autobiographical. *snort*

Angela Felsted said...

That's the golden question, isn't it? When you know, clue me in.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A great and thought provoking post
which made compelling reading.


Yvonne.

TheyCallMeVarmit said...

Great post with a great tip for writers.

Jan Morrison said...

thanks all - if you're coming back to see if I've written you a response, you aren't doing what I'm doing - running around the blogosphere like the proverbial chicken. I really appreciate the comments and I'll visit everyone who visits me!
Jan Morrison

MM the Queen of English said...

I must admit that in the beginning I had too much compassion for my characters. I didn't let them suffer -- little conflict -- not good for novel.

Blog hopping is mind-expanding. Your blog is deep and meaningful. The one I read before yours was light and playful.

Thanks for the experience.

MM the Queen of English
queenofenglish.wordpress.com

PS: Thanks for your comments on my comma blog post. I aim to free the world of bad punctuation pollution one writer or three or ten at a time.

Rae said...

Maybe I'm not really as compassionate as I'd like to think...I write my blog for myself and if someone comments, I'm very grateful and flattered- but I don't go out looking for followers. This A to Z was a good challenge for me.
But I do love meeting great bloggers and new friends like yourself.
I'll work harder on the compassion.
See you at "D'!

Nicki Elson said...

Ah, at first I thought you were going to talk about being compassionate with our characters, so we cold understand them and how they'd act, and then you went & put on the clever twist of talking about the reader. Yes, I agree that it's essential for a writer to put themselves in the reader's mind and heart. That's why I walk away from a writing project from time to time---it help me step out of my writer's mind and come back to look at the piece critically from a reader's.

lesleylsmith said...

Jan, I agree Compassion is key. The best way to bring comapssion to one's work is to not be afraid to be corny of risk sentimentality. :)
Good post! Thanks for sharing!

Ann said...

Great post Jan. Compassion is something that we can use from both a reader's and a writer's prospective. It is not always easy though to bare your soul.

Sarah Allan said...

I agree, the writer has to have compassion for their characters to feel what they're feeling, or at least understand why they are feeling something, even if it isn't rational. I just try to write what my characters tell me, and it usually works out well. Thank you for the follow! I'm definitely following back.

xoxo Sarah

dr3am3r said...

i'm glad that you took time to write about this. You're right. It doesn't seem important. However, it is incredibly important. I'm reading a book currently where the author continually switches from telling the story to talking to the characters in her own voice. It's hugely confusing and strange. Every time that she begins talking to a character, I'm pulled out of the story.

so thank you.

Tara Tyler said...

i'm corny and i'm proud! good c post!
happy c day!

Julie said...

I love this post, well done. I'm glad I discovered your blog through the Challenge, I'm looking forward to reading more. :)

Sylvia Ney said...

Words of wisdom. I'm a fellow "A to Z" blogger and I look forward to reading more from you.

fredamans said...

Compassion is like patience... a virtue.
Great post!

http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com/2011/04/c-is-for-cake.html

Ella said...

Great point; It definitely is a must for the book to be good and hold the reader~

Karen Walker said...

Jan, I have seen your comments all over bloggydom but it took till now to find you and follow. Thanks to the a-z challenge for getting me on the ball.
Karen

Dorte H said...

I THINK I know what you mean. Once I wrote a story where a mother lost her son, and an editor told me I had not made her human - he didn´t feel her grief so it didn´t matter to him that I had ´killed´ her son. That is a story I will have to make better so that even if it hurts to write it, the reader will sit on edge or perhaps even shed a tear for a poor woman who lost a child.

Hart Johnson said...

I've been a big baby... I mean a compassionate person my whole life... sad when someone else got hurt... I cry at commercials, if that's any indication...

I always feel compassion for my CHARACTERS, but you know... I've never really thought about my readers... I just figure if I'm crying while I'm writing, that is some good stuff...

sue said...

It's so good to read this Jan, I've spent too much time reading about sociopaths and psychopaths for my month of bullying, this is just the antidote I needed. It's taking more out of me than I anticipated. Your words are like a drop of healing salve. Thankyou. (I think I need to take some time off and show some compassion to myself)
Sue@traverselife

(I won't drop back to see if you've commented)

Cole Garrett said...

Ahh! Compassion! It is a quality far too absent in today's world. I agree that more people pity than truly "feel" with another.

How does my compassion affect my work? Hmm... well I do my darndest not to settle for half-effort posts just for the sake of posting to my blog. My theory is that you want to keep readers on the edge of their seats, but not actually leaving them. :)