David Morrell (FIRST BLOOD, BLOOD OATH, THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE, DESPERATE MEASURES, THE SHIMMER, etc.) was one of the keynote speakers, as was Agent Gordon Warnock from Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management. While I was spending my day at the conference, my wife was off visiting most of the thrift shops and taking in the beauty of this quaint little town nestled amongst the Ozark Mountains. She talked me into staying at one of the numerous bed & breakfasts the city is known for, so it was win-win for both of us.
Although I enjoyed all of the sessions, I particularly fancied listening to David Morrell. He spoke on many topics, but he put forth one particular theory that I thought I'd share here, and I'm really interested in hearing all of your opinions about it. He was going along, describing his background and how he overcame a lot of obstacles to get where he is today, when he uttered something that caught us completely off-guard. "Everyone here is damaged goods,” he said. The comment hung in the air for a few moments, allowing a slightly uncomfortable hush to fill the room, and then he continued. “That is why we are writers. We all have something in our past trying to come out in the form of a story." He went on to say that writers spend a great deal of time trying to find that perfect emotional voice to relate the tale they need to tell, as a way of coming to grips with their issues. Some authors, like himself for example, had such deep-seated problems that they turned up as common themes in most of his work.
Although I don't agree 100% with Mr. Morrell's theory, as bold as it sounds I still find a great deal of merit in his thinking. I liken it to the way our bodies will expel a foreign substance, such as the way a splinter will work itself out of the skin if left untouched. An emotional splinter, if you will. In Mr. Morrell's case, that splinter was a neglectful mother and an abusive step-father that manifested itself in his stories where the main character is in conflict with a father-figure type.
Mr. Morrell went on to posture that attempts to utilize an emotional voice that don't resolve the writer’s issues might have near-term positive results, but will ultimately prove unsatisfying. Authors shouldn’t be afraid of confronting these issues, whatever they might be, instead tap into them and mine them for all their worth.
His talk did get the gears churning in my head. If I were to give any weight to his premise at all, then shouldn't I have an emotional splinter? And if so, what might that be? The more I mulled it over, the more I became convinced that a key concept of both of my novels indeed gestated from some impactful events from my early twenties. But then I wondered if instead of being some murky psychological mumbo-jumbo, that the key concept was just a case of me drawing inspiration from personal experience (write what you know). Back and forth I went, until I finally left it somewhere in-between. A real chicken or egg type of question.
How about you? What's your opinion? Do we all have an emotional splinter we're trying to deal with in our writing?