Move Me

Please can someone gently remind me next year it might be better to go for a happily ever after novella for NaNo. Using it as a bootcamp to get 50,000 words of the core emotional scenes down for the next book was not a good idea - but it is too late for me now. What moves you? Are there particular books, films, memories or situations that break you down?

I was thinking today about Sam Taylor Wood's incredible series of photographs of crying men. Those of you who have been kind enough to read regularly know my ideas about 'method' writing - really submerging yourself in character the way actors take on a part. Critics have said 'these guys are actors, they're acting, the tears aren't real'. Taylor Wood has said she felt they did draw on their own emotions and experiences. The tears were 'real' - ie, personal, felt. One of the actors said his emotions run close to the surface so he can generate this intensity when he needs to. Know how he feels. In the last few days 'I' have lost my husband, been betrayed by my best friend, moved country, had a baby, fallen in love, fought in the Spanish Civil War ... it's exhausting.

Men crying is still something of a taboo in western society - there's a sense it has to be really bad to see a man cry. What do you think of this? I've spent the last few nights with tears running down my face - hopefully great for the new book, not so much for me. I feel as battered as my characters, stripped back, nerves raw. Unfortunately unlike some famous writers who take themselves off to tranquil hotels to write, I've also been doing the usual juggling act with the pilot in India. Normally have a strict 'never cry in front of the children' rule but barking hound, screaming kids, exhaustion ... 'emotion running close to the surface' didn't quite do it justice this morning.

Apart from days like today where you would - given half the chance - go and hide in a dark room, there are plus sides to immersing yourself in the creative process. For one glorious day this week I had a few solid daylight hours to write. I sank so deep in the story it was a genuine surprise to find myself in rainy autumnal Hampshire rather than the sundrenched gardens of the Alhambra. The characters go through a tremendous journey - the protagonists are in their 30s, 40s - set in their ways until life blindsides them (as it does). The book is very physical and sensual on one hand, but the theme of flight - flying figures, the transience of life and the eternal is woven in. I don't know what happens when you write - where the words come from is part of the magic. All I know is getting your characters from A to B, to a lightness, and emotional openness where they are capable of change, of falling in love again is one hell of a journey.

TODAY'S PROMPT: Strangely every time we had a car or stereo stolen, a copy of Crowded House was in the machine. Discerning thieves in south London. This is an all time favourite song - there is something incredibly raw and genuine in it's intimacy and surrender. Why not have a think about the kind of music, films or books that move you - jot down in your journal some ideas for scenes that could hook your reader in. Do you think there is a formula to writing emotional work? Or is moving your readers something that can't be faked? Does your own work move you to tears of emotion (sadness, joy, anger, frustration?) If your emotions need a little inspiration, why not take a look at this video clip from 'The Notebook' - it's one of those hugely successful films that seems to press all the right emotional buttons ...


  1. Simple authenticity is moving. To Live by Yu Hua had that quality.

  2. Excellent recommendation Mr B - I've put it on my wish list. Similar journey here: woman loses everything to find all she ever wanted. Looking forward to writing the happy ending now.

  3. I love stopping by here on a Sunday. Crowded House, The Notebook, awesome pictures of men showing raw emotions. Thank-you for keeping me in touch with creation and art.

    I cried during Obamas acceptance speech, and even more so when I saw Jesse Jackson's tears.

  4. PHST - same here (and I was driving ..:)

  5. I have sat here in front of my screen for some time thinking of all the things I want to share right now..the pictures grabbed me the minute I landed here and suddenly I felt this thing, this knot in the center of my chest. I felt the shift in the lines on my face but didn't let the emotion ride to the surface. I read your words - so well put together - and felt the emotions of your characters and of you standing in the middle of your day today, your life. I clicked on the last link before reading the end of your post but it would not connect and I was happy about that as i read that it was from the Notebook. The Notebook - the book - wrecked me. I won't watch the film. There is a scene in She's Having a Baby - not the greatest film ever made - where Kevin Bacon is waiting to see if his wife and child will be ok...he is in the waiting room and this song plays and every single time I SOB...not cry...I SOB....right now I'm crying...your words stirred something in the center of me...I am a writer at least that's what I've been for a long time and now I am obsessed with making things by hand and writing is different but I KNOW that you speak of in submerging yourself in characters and I worry that I've lost that ..not the ability but the desire to do that right now and yet I love words you moved me to tears

  6. I've looked at that Nanowrimo thing the last couple of years...and always decided to give it a miss. Mainly because of the time involved, because I really want to do it. The thing I'm working on allows me to dip in and out but like ou say, a novel requires a bit of obsession and immersion in a way that non-fiction doesn't. I fear I might spend most of the time looking a bit like Daniel Craig there.

  7. Forgivme - moments before coming to visit the little one three a tantrum, I couldn't find something I'd written and sketched and hadn't had a moment alone in FAR too long...and so I had a meltdown ...on your blog. Thank you for letting time, I will find a suitable place to meet and invite you and all other stressed out Mom's to meet for a drink or TEN!

  8. Stopping by from Pseudo. Lovely post. I love Crowded House too.

    I will be back. I lived in the UK for a few years in the early 90s. Miss it. :-)

  9. First--I love Crowded House. Let's just say that my son's middle name is Finn. I saw them twice when they were here in Austin. Discerning thieves indeed.

    Do some men find relief in acting when they get to "act" emotional? Maybe?

    The thoughts are rather scattered here, but as to films that get to me--Pan's Labyrinth undid me. I can't recall the last time I cried like that after a movie. I felt shocked for days.

    To get close to what I want to write I can't go to a hotel. Hotel depress me. I've never been able to create in a hotel. My own home after everyone else is asleep. For whatever reason, the less able I am to get up and shout, the better I can write.

    Now I've got Neil Finn in the CD player...

  10. Natasha - She's Having a Baby: Kate Bush 'This Woman's Work' - kills me every time. This is a safe corner of the blogosphere for meltdown *anytime*

    Misssy - same here. Someone gave me the 'No Plot No Problem!' set ages ago ... I've always avoided it ... now I know why - there is no backing out now because I'm b******d if I'm not getting to 50k :) (Daniel, be a love and pass me the kleenex ...)

    Hello Only A Movie - welcome!

    Marta - love Finn as a name. Sounds like we are both night owls (it's the inevitable early mornings that are hard to handle ...)

  11. Seeing my Dad cry at my Grandad's funeral killed me.
    Strangely, instrumental music moves me the most: 'Rushing' by Moby... brings me to my knees, as do sax solos.
    Sometimes pure nostalgia sets me off... but i do have to be very careful with music.

  12. Hello Scarlet - I know ... Think I'm getting old but when Jo Wiley does her 'changing tracks' and the music the kid in their teens/20s chooses is some techno track you just think 'have you never heard of proper music - how can you possibly be moved by *that*?!

  13. When my father died in 1988, one of my sisters took her two sons (then 6 and 8 years old) aside and warned them, pre-funeral, that they were going to see something potentially disturbing: their uncles, unglued. (Good thing she did so, too.)

    Like someone(s) else mentioned, I lost it on election night. Didn't wait for the acceptance speech, though. As soon as the networks called it for Obama, I was gone.

    A couple days ago, I blogged in part about the song "Ashokan Farewell." Like the song choices you've made here, that one always gets me. It even got the guy who wrote it; he said the first few times he played the opening bars, it moved HIM to tears. (And with Buckley singing "Hallelujah" on your playlist, heck, no wonder you might be in this frame of mind. :))

  14. Yes JES - it is self inflicted/provoked, no one to blame but myself! 'Hallelujah' has you from that first breath in doesn't it?

  15. Poor you - I hope you're better. I KNOW those lonely late-night crying jags. They can be hard to take. But glad that you got some good daytime hours in to write. Those are like gold!

    I am always moved my anything classical, in terms of sparking emotions and the creative process. For some reason, Bach, Vivaldi, Debussy, Saint-Saens, all create scenes, ideas, emotional exploration for me. Close second would be some good jazz - Miles Davis, Coltrane, Billie Holiday, etc. Just inspiring.

  16. Hi Mary - all part of the process! Classical/jazz always works well doesn't it - I think because of the lack of vocal distraction.

  17. Kate ...I finally completed my tag mission...stop by if you get a chance...sending's the writing and life going?


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