I should add, do you upset, arouse, please or amuse yourself as you write a story?
I just experienced another example of my writing unexpectedly affecting me.
I’ve been moved by my own writing only a few times, largely because I know what’s coming next, of course. I’ve penned some revolting scenes in my crime novels, including finding corpses and autopsies. There are so many facts to get right, that I’m more focused on the minutiae of decomposition and post-mortem techniques than I am with the emotions of the participants—which are muted, as they’re professionals who’ve seen it all before.
All the same, there was a scene in the first Cornish Detective story which always makes my heart beat faster. In it, a headstrong detective conceals information about a serial killer—a master of disguise—planning to arrest him alone to secure prestige and promotion. Visiting the killer’s workplace at night, no one appears to be there. Thwarted he makes for the police station, stopping to examine a nearby skip/dumpster for evidence. He disturbs a homeless Asian woman, and going to offer her help with sheltered accommodation for the night, he realises at the last moment that it’s the man they’re hunting in disguise. The detective dies. Every time I read it, I’m gripped by the danger he’s in.
Finding a way to write a sex scene for my Cornish Detective was tricky, as it had to fit into a crime story and the circumstances of the MC and his lover. I went for erotic rather than out-and-out-get-it-all-out-and-stick-it-in-there pornography! Two of my three female beta readers loved it, while the other thought it too explicit—preferring the gory details of a body being dissected by the pathologist. Impossible for me to judge if it’s sexy or not, but it’s emotional and fitted in with how my protagonist finally permitted himself to become close to another person, after running scared from intimacy for nine years of widowhood.
I was more moved by the grief of a widower in a short story I wrote about assisted suicide at the Dignitas Clinic, shedding a few tears when he finds hidden messages from his dearly departed wife.
The ghost stories I’ve written slowly build an atmosphere of dread, so I’m more aware of technique than I am horrified. However, just this evening, my skin crawled as I thought of a way to conclude a Crime short story I’m writing in a ghostly way.
I intend to give away a couple of tales to subscribers to my newsletter from the Cornish Detective website. I started a story in March, returning to it from time to time. The Sad House became gloomier and gloomier, possibly reflecting my own pessimism as I struggled to understand how to build a WordPress blog.
The abandoned cottage has been the scene of murder and suicide for 150 years, so much so, that it’s the first place the police search when a vulnerable adult goes missing. I had vague intentions to add a supernatural element, but couldn’t think how to do it. Out of the darkness of my subconscious, came the idea of my MC catching a glimpse of a woman watching him from an upstairs window of the deserted house. Rushing to find who it is, the detective sees a shadow disappearing into the wall followed by a plaintive wailing. I think it’s the change of senses, from him examining a historic crime scene to hearing the distress of one of the victims that gives me goosebumps.
How have you been affected by your own writing?