Have you ever intentionally practiced self-censorship? 

This is what happens when you avoid writing the story you want to write, you planned to write, because something about it might bother someone.  This someone might be in your critique group.  Or in your family.  Or a friend who always reads your work.  This someone could be less concrete — the faceless parent who might object to a character’s behavior, who might demand that your book be pulled from the shelves. 

If you avoid writing the story as it should be written because you just don’t want to hear about it, that’s self-censorship of the intentional variety. 

Sometimes, self-censorship is sneakier.  I found this out when I was working on a novel, and one scene right at the climax of my story just wouldn’t come together.  The sisters cannot stand each other.  In fact, they’ve been pitted against each other to the point that a dangerous rivalry has developed and in a sword and sorcery fantasy based on iron age technology, that can be pretty ugly.  Ahem.

I wrote one flat scene after another before I realized what was wrong.  Nice girls, good girls do not pull swords on their sisters.  They do not fight things out.  They might sulk.  They might huff.  But they do not under any circumstances draw a line in the dirt and dare someone to cross it.  I was holding my main character back.  After what had happened in the story, she needed to come a bit unhinged.    Unhinged with a sword is not going to be nice.  What she needs to do will make people talk.  Will disappoint her mother and my mother too.  Nice girls may not pull swords on their sisters but for the story to ring true that is what had to happen.  No other action would suffice.   I had been censoring my story by keeping it nice.

Do you have a scene that is refusing to gel?  Do you need to break one of your mother’s unwritten rules to bring it together?  Try it and see.


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