Write ruthlessly! Advice from David Morrell…

A few weeks ago, I attended the Write Now! conference in Raleigh, NC. David Morrell, prolific thriller author and the mind behind Rambo, was the keynote speaker. He also taught several workshops, which I was lucky enough to attend. Talk about words of wisdom — I must have scribbled several pages of notes, and I bought his book so I could read more!

Probably the most interesting (and possibly, valuable) lesson I learned from Mr. Morrell was his idea, “Every person has a dominant emotion.” According to Morrell, all writers have some “defect” that pushes them to be writers. Otherwise, why would we sit alone for hours a day, writing in virtual solitary confinement? For Morrell, his dominant emotion is fear — fear based on traumatic early childhood experiences with an abusive step-father. That’s what drew him to write thrillers, a genre where the main character must escape at all costs, where his/her life is at stake. Morrell says that we all have things inside ourselves “that are desperate to be communicated.” That’s why it is so important for writers to write for themselves, and not to please others.

“Are you willing to be open to yourself?” Morrell asked the crowd that Saturday. He encouraged us to have the courage to write what we’d always wanted to say. He gave the example of Edith Wharton “breaking ranks” and writing about the oppressive, superficiality of the wealthy society she grew up in. As Morrell talked, I tried to figure out what my dominant emotion was; what were the words I’d always wanted to say but had been afraid to write? If you want to be a writer, it’s worth finding out!


5 thoughts on “Write ruthlessly! Advice from David Morrell…

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  1. Hi Louisa, It sounds like this was a very worthwhile writer’s conference, and Morrell sounds like an enlightening (and enlightened) speaker. I’m glad you got to attend!
    I think Morrell is right, and that this is true for visual artists as well. I have heard it said that writers revisit the same subject material in different ways. I’ve often wondered if this is our way of resolving unresolved issues from our pasts, and of our emotions. That said, although writing can be a form of ‘therapy’ at times, for the writer, I think that art and prose transcend the experience of the individual artist, especially when the reader invests something of themselves into the work.
    Writers should develop the courage to write what they want to write. And only when we do that will we create new, unique stories and voices.
    As to what my dominant emotion is, I have no idea! But I’ll find out! 🙂
    Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

  2. Hi Louisa..

    I really enjoyed your blog post…It sound like it was a great writer’s conference to attend. Morrell sound like an interesting speaker.

    I think that writer should write what they want, it can feel very freeing and create magical and wonderful stories. I’m not sure what my dominant emotion is, but I’m sure it will come to me at some point.

    I hope you have a great week. 🙂


  3. It’s so inspiring to be told- go ahead, do what is meaningful for you and it will be meaningful for your readers/ viewers and then to have the courage to act on that.

  4. Sounds like a great conference. I often think its only by writing that I discover what I want to say, and even then it’s not necessarily that transparent. Thanks for the post.

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