How Deep Should You Go? – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

How Deep Should You Go?

Everyone has s**t in their lives–the something that puts the little bit of darkness within them. We all have issues, and the truth is that those issues play a bigger part in our lives than we’d expect!

Writers tend to bleed into their characters a surprising amount–often a lot more than you think. Our issues come out on paper, and we tend to explore the darkness within ourselves as we write.

As a writer, my issues tend to come out in the form of the characters I write. My rejection issues stemming from being ostracized by peers as a child manifests itself in my current character, a half-demon assassin who never lets anyone see his real face. My desire for a better past–one I have control over–leads my character to go on a journey to discover a past he has no memory of.

The old saying goes “Write what you know”, and I’ve tried to take that to heart. While I don’t know much about being a half-demon or an assassin, I do know about being rejected and alone. So I tap into the c**p in my own past, and use the feelings that come up to help me figure out how my character should react. It’s a tumultuous journey, and certainly not an easy one.

But how deep should we, as writers, go? Do we want to tap into ALL the darkness within just for the sake of “writing what we know”?

I spent most of my formative years in a cult–not a particularly dark nor destructive cult, but a cult nonetheless. Does that mean that I should start writing stories that focus on the horrors of cults and what they do to people who leave or are kicked out?

I know many writers who have been the subject of abuse, physical, emotional, and otherwise. Does that mean that all of their writing should be about abuse, abusers, and abuse victims?

How dark should you take your writing? Do you really want to tap into the things in your past that you try to block out? Is it worth it for the craft, or do we do it just to try to add a bit more depth into these characters that almost feel like alternative versions of ourselves?

No one wants to be a shallow person, and no one wants their characters to be flat or shallow either. I feel like sometimes we just tap into our own darkness just so we can say to others, “Look, I have darkness in my life, something hidden within, therefore I am a deeper person than I appear.”

This is undoubtedly a question without an answer, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Drop a comment below and speak your pieceā€¦


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  1. (the) Dude

    I would argue that “Write what you know” is bad advice. The essence of stories that they are explorations into the imagination (biographies excepted, of course).
    As for characters, I think that many writers try too hard to give their characters tragic backstories. There’s this idea that a dramatic, often horrific backstory is needed to characterize a character. This is based on a kernel of truth; dramatic backstories can through a lot of light on a character’s motivations. However, the important thing to understand is that a backstory matters only insofar as it contributes to motivation. Why is it important that this character is an orphan? Because it motivates them to act this way or that way.
    The thing to keep in mind is that a character’s depth is based on how they act in the story, not their backstory. A character will make hundreds of decisions throughout your story, and a complex web of motivations and factors (personality, experiences, friendships, etc.) will inform those decisions. That is where the depth is in a character.
    That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have dark characters, just understand that darkness is not equal to depth.
    That’s my long-winded opinion, anyway.

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