Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Courage of a Writer

This week I’m on my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Creative Painting convention. While I’m gambling, er, painting, I thought you might enjoy this blog post which originally appeared on Femmes Fatales about a year ago. Enjoy!


by Sybil Johnson 

I’ve been told I’m courageous for creating a protagonist who is a computer programmer, an occupation some people consider unusual for cozy mysteries. Someone else told me I have courage when I mentioned I’d changed the process I was using to write my third book. I don’t consider either of these things particularly courageous, but it did get me thinking about courage—what it is and how important it can be to a story.

Me? I’m a wimp. I don’t like heights. I’m deathly afraid of the water to the point where I even dislike hot tubs. I won’t be in the same room with a snake, and I hyperventilate every time I need to send email to someone I don’t know.

Bystanders who pull people out of crashed cars, firefighters who run into burning buildings, police officers who patrol the streets are all courageous people. But there’s a less obvious kind of courage that we all to a certain extent exhibit every day—at a less dramatic level. It’s courage nonetheless. Something as simple as giving a presentation in front of a large group or driving in an unfamiliar city takes courage if those things frighten you.

As mystery readers and writers, we want our protagonists to have courage, to brush aside their fears and discover the truth. Minor characters can be total wimps and cower in a corner, but our main characters need to display courage. They don’t have to be superheroes. We want them to have faults and fears like real people. But don’t we root for a character a little more when she takes action despite her fears?

And what about writers? Aren’t all writers courageous? We send our words out into the sometimes cruel world not knowing if they’ll be accepted or rejected, if a reviewer will pan our book or praise it. No matter how experienced the writer, for must of us I think there’s that niggling doubt in the back of our minds that the last book was a fluke and that we’ll never be able to do it again. Yet, we still keep on writing and submitting stories despite that.

I guess I do possess courage after all. So does every other writer, whether they think of it that way or not. The next time you read a book, even if it’s not your cup of tea, applaud the courage of the person who wrote it.

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