Michelle Wittle On Beating A Dead Horse

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Okay, animal rights activists, I do not literally mean we should all go out and find a dead horse and beat it until…I guess we think it’s dead again. I am talking metaphorically about writing the same story lines over and over again. I can not begin to tell you how utterly annoying it is to read a story about a cutter who’s dad beats them or and alcoholic parent and the kid they ignored. I am not saying that these things are jokes and should not be taken seriously. Also, I am not belittling anyone who has felt the pain of an abusive drunk parent or someone who feels their pain is so entrenched in their body they think they need to cut. However, I am saying that these stories are so overdone that it shows a lack of creativity and it shows the “youngness” of the writer. It’s like you are writing the story to get the emotional pull and that is all your story has to it. The writer is screaming, “See I hurt too and you should publish me because I have suffered”. The truth is, we have all suffered. We are human and there is no way around getting hurt. That doesn’t make you different or special. What does make you special is your voice.

Let’s be honest, there really isn’t a new story line out there. Sure, there are different twists like maybe it will be a girl hero instead of a guy, but the general story lines have all been done before. Even Shakespeare looked to his classics to come up with an idea. But, what made him and his play line so different was his voice. He wrote to his audience and he gave them what he knew they would want. He added things to make the old story line fit his time and place.

 If you feel married to the idea of exposing your drunken dad, then I know I can’t get you away from that idea. But, I just ask you to take a look at what makes your situation different. Find your voice and put your stamp in it. Maybe instead of the dad realizing the mistake he has made, he goes to AA, cleans up his act and just as he is getting remarried someone throws a beer bottle at his head and he dies. Or maybe instead of the cliché drunk car accident, maybe this time, he doesn’t die. I say write your dad a letter and save it away. Or write the story to get it out of your system, but don’t try to publish it. You are too emotionally attached to it and when people start picking it apart, you will only get angrier.

The best place for these stories, these dead horses, is in a journal. Write them for the therapeutic value, but keep them safe from the public eye. In time, you may be able to look objectively at it and introduce your voice into it. But my advice is to keep away from it. You can’t change the past and the hurt you feel is the same we all feel. Let’s not beat the dead horse…let’s just leave it to rest in peace.

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One thought on “Michelle Wittle On Beating A Dead Horse

  1. I could not agree more, and I would suggest that writers try harder to look outside their own lives for stories. It requires a certain amount of imagination to tell someone else’s story and get inside other skins, and it often releases us to try something new.

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