Emotional Barrier in Fiction: After You Cross It, What’s Next? (Part Two)

Part two of the last posting.

Writers In The Storm Blog

Today Tiffany Lawson Inman is continuing the discussion of the emotional barrier in fiction. If you missed Part One on Wednesday, click here.

We’re lucky not only to have Tiffany share her knowledge with us, but she’s giving away a “seat” in her next online class at the Lawson Writers Academy on this very subject to a commenter from Part One or Part Two.  We’ll announce the winner on Monday. Contest closes Sunday, September 29, at noon.

Tiffany Lawson Inman, headshotby Tiffany Lawson Inman

Welcome back!

We learned in Part One of this post, that the emotional barrier is VERY IMPORTANT, and very hard to break down without completely collapsing in on ourselves. We are all afraid of icky gooey stuff that seeps out when we are alone, and it takes skill to use the memories and gut-wrench that is on the other side, right?


And comedians like Louis C.K. have…

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Emotional Barrier in Fiction: Why is it so important for you to learn how to cross it? (Part One)

This was so helpful for me, I wanted to share it with you.

Writers In The Storm Blog

We are fortunate to get a double-dose of Tiffany Lawson Inman this week with her insights on the emotional barrier in fiction. Look for Part Two on Friday. Oh, and read on. Tiffany’s offering a “seat” for one lucky commenter to her next online class at the Lawson Writers Academy.

Tiffany Lawson Inman, headshotby Tiffany Lawson Inman

Emotions play a big role in writing fiction.

That’s not a big secret, right?

Nope, but what I say next might surprise you. One of the many things I learned during my years as an actor is that most people, including writers, are afraid of their own emotions. Feeeeeeeeeeelings.Kermit Oh yes, those pesky feelings.

Most people are afraid of the thoughts and situations that forced them to feel hate, shame, guilt, terror, deep sadness, and dread. Humans are blessed to have the ability to emote, but they also have within them an emotional barrier to protect…

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Quite a Character

Have you ever been referred to as ‘Quite a character’? Or have you thought of someone else that way? Let me tell you that as a writer, that phrase takes on a whole new meaning. Several times over the last few weeks, I have read blogs or heard references to how important characters are to a story. You can tell a tale of circumstances while sticking to the facts and still have an interesting story (depending on the facts and if you work really hard!) But to truly get into the story, you need something more; you need characters.

When I read a good book with well drawn characters, I get so drawn into the story that I become a part of it. I have been known to neglect my housewifely duties and my children to read a new book. I have stayed up until dawn reading one more chapter. My husband laughs at me because I will walk around the house, cook and even go to the bathroom reading as I go. (No pun intended)

Is it the circumstances and plot twists that hold me hostage? Sometimes, but it is the way the characters are drawn, the way I relate so intimately with them that truly holds me. If I set the book down, I feel like I am letting down my team and deserting them in their hour of need. If I lay a book aside out of necessity or exhaustion, I pick it up again as soon as I can. Because the hero can’t do it alone, he needs me!

In fact, I have to be careful about what books I read. I have found that if I am caught up in a book that is too depressing or the characters are mixed up in truly horrible trouble, I get depressed. I dream of the story, I struggle and suffer right along with them. The resulting depression can last for weeks and affect my whole family.

It is all about the characters. So as a writer, I am learning how to develop those characters that suck you in. They need to become real to me so that I can make them live for the reader, at least for as long as the book lasts. Who are they in their deepest thoughts? What is their greatest fear, their most secret dream? Do they bite their nails, snap their gum? Are they outgoing to cover up their shyness, or avoid the spotlight because they found a new pimple on their nose?

I don’t know the answers yet, but I can’t wait to find them out!

Clinging tight to Jesus

This Sunday my pastor’s message was about what to do when the ‘stuff’ hits the fan. It basically boiled down to accepting that life happens and when we are struggling in our lives, when we are hurting and feeling like our world is crumbling around us, we need to cling that much tighter to Jesus.

We do not live in a perfect world. We are not perfect people. The people around us are not perfect either. You bring all those things together and guess what, it hurts.

It is OK to hurt.

It is Ok to be discouraged.

It is Ok to be angry.

But it is not Ok to stay there and use the pain as an excuse to pull away from life, other people and God. He knows that we hurt and is right there to carry us over the burning coals. He sends other people to comfort and encourage us. And he still has a job for us to do on this world we live on.

When I am in that place where depression is reaching out to drag me down to despair, when my task looms dark and heavy before me and my heart quails with the fear of failure, I seek the arms of my loving heavenly father. I bury my face in my pillow and ask why; Why is it happening? Why is it so hard? Why do I have to continue?

When the tears have cried themselves out, when my battered heart lies quietly throbbing in my chest, my Lord whispers;

My child, I love you. I am with you, through the good times and the bad. Trust in me. I will lead you through to the other side. I will never leave you or forsake you, You are mine and I love you.

Sometimes I have to go through hard things so that my heart is soft enough to hear his words. I most often go my own way and do my own thingdouble rainbow

rather than listen to his leading. It is only after my heart is broken, that I remember how to lean on him. I wish I could learn to do it daily, but so far I

have been a reluctant learner.

Good thing for me, my God will not leave me or forsake me and never, ever will He give up on me.

Father, forgive me for my hard and stubborn heart. I am sorry that I trust you so little. Teach me daily to lean on you. In this time of trouble, help me cling tight to you.

A Look Back

Sometimes it is good to stop where we are and look back at where we have come from. Yesterday I downloaded all my pictures off my old computer (5 years worth) and loaded them onto the new one. I spent a large portion of the day scrolling through them and reliving some old memories. I saw my kids grow from toothless wonders to moody teenagers.

I saw oodles of pictures of puppies that we have raised as well as the canine matriarch, Maggie, whom we had to put down earlier this year. Hundreds of photos brought back memories or past family trips. Even more taken at family events, Birthdays, Anniversaries, and funerals.

Who can resist?

Who can resist?

In the large majority of the pictures, we are smiling.

That may not be indicative of our daily lives, which are often filled with grief and drama, but it proves that every life has both joy and sorrow. Life moves on in an endless series of ups and downs, mountaintops and dark valleys. In the last five years of pictures, I saw glimpses of that road. In each one I saw evidence of God at work in our lives; puppies that came at just the right time to help pay  over due bills, Old wounds within a family begin to heal at a party celebrating the life of my brother-in-law after he was diagnosed with cancer. Those wounds healed further as people gathered at his funeral just over a year later. God has always provided us with the means to make family trips to the ocean or even to a local park to help us grow closer as a family. Away from home, my kids are able to relax and have fun again, laughing and playing together the way they did when they were younger. My husband and I can enjoy each other’s company without the endless pressure of housework and projects.  There are so many that don’t have that ability to get away, or they don’t have anyone to get away with.

our yearly trip to the ocean

our yearly trip to the ocean

I am blessed. Looking back, I can see so many blessings that I have lost sight of in the stress of today.

Thank you Lord, for taking me on a trip down memory lane so that I can remember that life is a journey. No matter how hard it seems right now, there will be an end to these troubles. Thank you for walking alongside me through the valley so that together we can climb to the next mountain top.

From the mountain to the valley, You are always with me.

From the mountain to the valley, You are always with me.


Back to School

Do you remember the when back to school meant the end of freedom? When it was new backpacks and pencils? Do you remember that rush you got when opening a new box of crayons for the first time? Most of the time it seems like a lifetime ago. But yesterday when watching my kids wait for the bus, I felt it all again. My oldest son heading out for his first day of high school, feeling full of pride that he had finally made it to the big time. His smile full of expectation and hope that this year would be different. My younger son ready for 7th grade, too cool to get his picture taken, but still young enough to want a hug before he goes out the door. My daughter, my baby, on pins and needles dancing on her toes ready to tackle middle school.

I remember standing in the chilly morning air watching the road waiting for that big yellow bus to sweep me into a world apart. I remember the sun just cresting the horizon it’s golden rays sliding off the bright yellow of the bus winking off the windows as if it knew a secret. I remember my heart in my throat as I followed my sisters, dragging myself up those black steps and into the long canyon of green plastic seats. I would drop into the nearest empty seat and huddle next to the window, pulling out a book to help me escape reality for a few more minutes. At every stop I would chant in my head ‘Don’t sit here, don’t sit here.’ Of course the bus was always full so I always had a companion. Most days my seat mate would be more than happy to leave me alone, laughing and chatting to the people around us. I would huddle lower and hold my book as a shield. How I longed to be one of them, able to hold a conversation without stumbling over my own tongue, tripping over my words. The thought terrified, even as it enticed. Every day was a challenge, a battle to be won. Each day I would brace myself to endure the crowded hallways and loud lunch rooms. Each day I avoided those beautiful confident people that surrounded me, wanting to be like them, knowing I never would.

But slowly, slowly I began to make friends. A shy smile here, an answer to a question there. Through the years God has given me friends when I needed them most; Yvonne, Nori, Felicia, Angie, Patti, Nancy, Aleta and others through the years. My parents and my sisters have always been there for me, but God also gave me friends to help take me through the dark times of Elementary, Middle and High school, through college and beyond. As I send my children off to face their own school day fears, I pray that God sends them friends, good friends who will offer them acceptance and encouragement and a listening ear to help them thrive in a dark and scary world that has grown even more terrifying since my own demons were faced.