In a previous article, we discussed an exercise called expressive writing to assist you in your Healing Journey. It is one way of dealing with difficult and traumatic past events.
However, for some people, it can be more beneficial to take another route.
If you get stuck on a topic, keep writing the same event over and over again and those images keep returning, you might experience the feeling of being unable to move on. Then there is another option for you.
If journaling about your feelings, exploring the event and the details of it leaves you in even more pain, then it is time to move on to another writing exercise. You can start writing fiction for your Healing Journey.
One of the massive impacts of trauma is that people’s entire worldview changes, even how they see themselves and realizing how little control they have. By losing their sense of self and their idea of control, it is difficult to lead them back to a path where they feel like they can take back the lead of their own life.
But by writing fiction, we can write someone else’s story, detached from our sense of self, and therefore give us time and space to breathe before we can own this story as our own.
Fiction writing for your Healing Journey gives you the option of regaining power over the situation.
I want to mention a few pointers before I give you some tips on how you can start.
It doesn’t matter in what format you want to write. You can write in poem form, write short stories, novellas, or a series of novels. This only depends on how much time and effort you want to invest, and if you enjoy writing overall.
If you write to work on traumatic events, only let your own eyes see the words on the page. Otherwise, you are going to censor yourself. You also don’t need to worry about pacing, grammar, story arc, or any other technicalities. Nobody is going to see it, at least not in its raw form. If you want to publish your story later, you can still work on it.
You can use anything you want. Often for journaling or other writing exercises, it is recommended to write with a pen on paper. It slows down your thoughts and lets you reflect. However, I personally think that if you want to write fiction, especially if you want to write longer stories, that using your laptop, computer, or tablet, works just as well. So don’t restrict yourself if you prefer typing over hand writing.
The time of writing is your own, so if possible, create a space (you don’t need a specific room, but do so if it is available to you) where you won’t be disturbed. How much time you want to spend on your writing depends, of course, on your schedule. Some may have time to set aside an hour every day, and others may only get twenty minutes on the weekend. Do what works for you.
Some people may want to meditate before, after, or both. Or you can also just take a few conscious breaths before you begin. And as mentioned already in the previous article about writing, you can also cleanse yourself after a session if you feel it is necessary.
Now that you are all set, start thinking about how to begin.
- 1. Environment / World Building
If you only want to write a few hundred words, you are probably not too worried about world building, or at least not in great detail. But in whatever manner you want to go on about this, try to envision a very different environment from the actual event. Let’s say you had a car accident and broke your arm and this accident happened on the main road in a big city. Then transform it into something very different. You could let an accident happen on a muddy track in the middle of a fantasy forest. Highwaymen may have set up a trap. The horse you were riding panicked and you fell off it and broke your arm. You could also use another setting that is more futuristic. Your character might be on a spaceship and as they got hit by a meteor shower and as you try to reach the control centrum, a loose box hits you and you break your arm.
You are the storyteller, so get creative.
- 2. The event
Often, people who experienced trauma will not even acknowledge it, as they might think that it could have been worse, that others suffered more, or that their story is not unique. But it is unique to you. Your reaction to it is only yours. Others might have reacted similar, but it is never the same. Your environment was unique, and also what you perceived during is only something you can write. Some people might not even remember the full story of their traumatic event. Memories can be faulty. Maybe there is a blur that you need to work through. But before you write about the event, remember every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The event will happen in the middle. How much time you want to spend on your beginning is up to you. Ask yourself what led up to it? How could it have come to that? And let the character explore these questions.
When it comes to the event itself, try to remember what you saw, heard, and smelled during the event. Remember the details as best as you can and try to incorporate it in your writing. For example, in the case of a car accident, perhaps you smelled black powder after the airbag opened. So let the highwaymen from before use a gun and fire it just in front of your horse.
Perhaps you were just taking a fresh baked bread out of the oven when your world turned upside down, so use the scent here and describe the warmth of the oven in your story.
When you reach the end of your story, take some time to ponder about where you are now in real life in this story.
- 3. Characters
You can write your story from whatever viewpoint you like. You can let your main character act the exact way you did, and explore with them why they reacted the way they did, or you let them take the lead. Let yourself be surprised what they would have done differently. Perhaps you wished you would have walked away from an abusive relationship earlier. Let your main character explore this option. Perhaps they were raised differently, quicker to speak up for themselves, or might it even be impulsivity that made them leave so quickly after the first indication of a red flag? When you explore your characters, don’t judge them, allow them to act the way they want to, give them space and let them breathe. While writing the story let some characters take over, you might learn a lot about yourself. If you don’t like it, you can still change it, as you are fully in control of your story.
You don’t have to focus on only one character. Perhaps you want to include certain archetypes in your story, like the sage, the explorer, the rebel, or the wizard. You can put that on your character or use them to guide your character through the story. Explore your own shadows through story telling and put those aspects onto others. Exaggerate those aspects, if you like. For example, you might have a quick temper. Put it on another character. Let it blow out of proportion and with this character, you can explore where it is coming from.
I’m certain you will get real creative with your characters, especially if you know nobody will ever read it.
- 4. The End
You don’t have to stick to your own ending of the story. You can change the outcome for the character. Let them find hope and meaning in this whirlwind you just put them through. Let there be compassion and let them find healing in their story, as their healing will become yours.
If you are not satisfied with how your characters reacted, write another version. You will grow with them. You can also use the same story and change the setting. Observe if any other changes occur if it plays out in a different world.
Perhaps you want to give your characters a different backstory and explore if they then would react differently.
As you see, you have many options. And if you want to try several versions, you’ll realize that short stories are probably the best option for this exercise. However, sometimes a little self-exploration can also lead to novels.
I, myself, wrote a story because of a loss I suffered. It all began with a lighthouse and turned into the world of Naviira.
If you want to read my books, you can find them here:
The lighthouse was a catalyst for many things, and I didn’t even realize it until 6 months after the loss. Through the writing process, many things from my past came up, and some issues even from things yet to come. To say writing is magical is an understatement, in my opinion. It can open many doors, and I hope it will be the same for you as well.
I hope your world is kind