Big girls don’t cry…do they?


Do you need to get in touch with your rawest emotions to write a sad scene?

Well, September’s well and truly here, and it’s the month of mixed feelings for me. It’s seven years on Tuesday since my first husband died – it was a time of dragonflies, mellow sunshine and gut-wrenching pain. When I write an emotive scene, I can’t get back into that time to channel the sadness into something constructive. Why? Is it the fear of not being able to climb back out again? Am I being a wimp? Should we just let the past go and try to block out the worst memories?


What are your views? Does a writer need to delve deeply into the worst times or is a healthy imagination enough?



  1. Lucie Wheeler

    Hi Celia,

    It’s a great question and I think it really depends on each individual. I am the type of writer who will dip my toe into the emotional time I am using to create the scene, but I don’t think I ever go wholeheartedly into it. But maybe that’s where I am going wrong. I use music a lot to help put me in the right frame of mind to write specific scenes so I team that with my over active imagination to get the emotions out….

    It will be interesting to hear others answer’s on this question.

    • Celia J Anderson

      Hello Lucie, and thanks for commenting – dipping a toe in is sometimes all we can manage but sometimes jumping in at the deep end has to be done, I guess! I know (because I’ve seen proof!) you are more than able to empathise with grief and to get right into your characters’ heads. xx

  2. Carol Hedges

    I think recalling those sad moments adds a layer of depths to our writing. Even if we are writing about an imaginary characters, whose problems bear no relation to ours, how can we capture the authenticity of real sorrow and anguish if we have not walked the same path? I have not encountered single writer who does not plumb the depths of their own life experiences in their work – whether it be a lost cat, or, in your case, the death of a loved and much missed one.

    • Celia J Anderson

      Thankyou for this, Carol, I agree that the layers are vital. Melancholy, sadness and grief are all interwoven with the easier and happier parts of life. Good to see you here – please call again!

  3. Mark West

    Good question and sorry to hear of your loss.

    I write horror fiction and the tone of it changed markedly for me when we lost my sister – I went from blood and guts, to much quieter, more supernatural stuff. I did use a lot of my feelings, regarding grief and bereavement, with my novelette “The Mill” and found it really quite cathartic.

    But, of course, it’s different strokes for different folks and I don’t think I could write it again.

    • Celia J Anderson

      I’d love to read some of your work, Mark – will get onto it asap. Thanks for commenting; I totally agree about the quieter element creeping in. Sorry to hear about your sister too.

      • Mark West

        If you’re interested, I’d be more than happy to zap you over a PDF of “The Mill”

        • Celia J Anderson

          Yes please!

          • Celia J Anderson

            Are we friends on facebook? If not, I’ll add you and then send my email address.

  4. Laura E. James

    Whilst we may not have the exact experience as our character, we can empathise by using similar experiences. We know what fear is – we don’t have to know what a fear of dogs is like, but we can use our fear of, say fire, to bring about a similar emotion.
    Personally, I find it cathartic – writing allows me to explore strong emotions within a safe environment, because although I’m calling on what I know, I am writing it in my character’s voice. xx

    • Celia J Anderson

      Yes, you’re so right. Strong emotions can seem a bit daunting when you first release them but the cathartic effect usually kicks in just when it gets too much. Thanks, Laura xx

  5. Mandy Baggot

    Hi Celia

    We’ve all experienced some degree of loss in our lives and I think it helps to draw from that experience. Whether you try to rely on imagination only or not I think you will find yourself automatically taken back to those sad times. Emotion you’ve gone through yourself always makes the characters feelings more real because the writer is creating from personal knowledge. In my novel, Do You Remember? the heroine, Emma, has just lost her mother to cancer. My mother is still alive and kicking but when I lost my lovely Grandad that was the worst and only real grief I’ve been through. I did use my feelings to help describe the emptiness in Emma’s life and the cruelty of cancer.

    The past is there for a reason and as well as the sad times there are loads of happy ones too!

    Mandy xx

    • Celia J Anderson

      I just had a really sad moment reading about Emma, I started Do You Remember earlier. I really felt for her, on holiday with her dad, both of them completely lost but trying to have a normal family holiday when everything had fallen apart. Looking forward to the rest but may need gin! xx

  6. Chris Stovell

    How awful for you, Celia, to have suffered that loss – people carry so much hidden sorrow. For me there are aspects of my life that I’m only just beginning to process as to whether I could write it out, I’m really not sure. I hope next Tuesday evokes happy memories to balance out what must be a painful day.

    • Celia J Anderson

      There is always something good to balance the sad time, and the dragonflies help. The smell of Autumn in the air is an evocative scent for anyone so it’s just a case of eating more cake, opening the wine and having a roaring fire. In the grate, obviously – I’m not a closet pyromaniac…

      Thanks, Chris xx

  7. Sue Fortin

    {{{Big hugs Celia}}}

    I’m not sure I can dig too deeply for certain feelings. I can maybe remember how I felt but I don’t necessary want to feel it again.

    Maybe it’s a time thing, I don’t know. Will be thinking of you on Tuesday.

    PS. I love Dragon Flies.x

    • Celia J Anderson

      Hi Sue – I know what you mean, just because you’ve felt something sad once you don’t necessarily want to revisit it! Thanks for kind thoughts,

      C xxx

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