The beauty of revising fiction and the power of words in real life

Writing fiction has its challenges, like typing words out of your head onto a blank screen and battling doubt every day, to name a few.

But there’s something great about fiction: the ability to revise.

Think of it. You’re writing out a scene and your characters get in an argument and one of them yells something rude, attacks a sensitive issue, and maybe slams a glass to the ground and leaves.  (As I’m writing this made-up scene, I’m imaging them in a bar for some reason.)

Awesome. The scene’s done.

“But wait,” I think to myself the next day when I re-read the scene. “What happens after that? That was a serious argument. They both said some pretty vicious things. I need them to be speaking to each other in the next scene. They won’t speak to each other for days after that argument. What if I tone it down a notch? Maybe she thinks about slamming a glass to the ground, but doesn’t do it.”

And I tweak it. Change a word here and there and, like magic, the feel of the scene changes.

Oh, the beauty of fiction.

Too bad real life’s not like that. Not at all.

Once you say something hurtful, do something hurtful, use poor judgement, etc. it’s done. You can’t change it. There’s no erasing a gesture or even a single word.

And the sting of your words and actions can stick around long after the argument or misunderstanding.

In fiction you hit the delete key and that’s all there is to it. That rude, stupid, angry scene never happened.

But real life is full of real interactions with people, real choices, real consequences.

There’s no revise, no do-over.

Whoever said, “Words can never hurt you,” was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Words are powerful because they express emotion. Add the element of tone and they become mega powerful because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

That puts a lot of responsibility on us to:

  • think before we speak
  • take a moment before reacting
  • remember there’s no revising the scene.

To quote an old James Taylor song, (which I’ve done before here): “Shower the people you love with love.”

And it’s hard, especially in the heat of the moment, but it’s a challenge we all face. No one’s perfect. We’re going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing once in a while.

Thank goodness for forgiveness.