Gwen Tuinman



Writing Craft

On Writing: Our Books as Shields

A recent movie version of Cyrano de Bergerac has me thinking about fiction authors releasing their thoughts into the world. Through love letters Cyrano writes to the lovely Roxane, on behalf of a young soldier wooing her, he expresses love for her that he’s too bashful to share directly.

Most writers, safe to say, are introverts with rich interior lives. We quietly curate personal experiences and observe human interactions and reactions. We compost, in our subconscious, scenarios both jarring and tender, impulsive and conservative. When we then write the interiority of a character or their response to crisis or great love, some of ‘us’ muddles in there too.

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On Writing a Personal Essay

When writing a personal essay, I lean toward overwriting. The first draft is for me and subsequent drafts are for the dear reader. Once the excess is simmered off, the resulting flavour is more intense. It’s tempting to pour in every memory levied and fact gleaned from research rabbit holes. Alas, I’m kept in check by a desire to serve the essay and by publication wordcount requirements. Some personal details and research remain on the cutting room floor.

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Where Stories Live

Nothing kills story innovation faster than our inner critic. It’s counterintuitive, but when writing drafts, we need to turn our brains off. When we work from our conscious mind, the ego takes over. What a poor sentence! That character should be more likable. Does this even resemble a book page. Our writing choices become predictable and guarded. The inner editor pulls us away from the magic.

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