I hesitated writing anything about Haiti because there seemed to be a 24/7 stream of information about this tragedy. However, it’s been more than a week since the initial devastation and I’ve read that the donations have slowed. Instead of recapping the sadness, I thought I would discuss it the only way I can, as it relates to emotional response and creativity.
When my students are writing stories about grief I often direct them away from the usual screenwriting resources available and instead to books aimed at people suffering with a loss.
On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is one of the classic works in the field of recovery and I recommend it to anyone interested in the “Stage Theory” and writers interested in learning more about the emotional response to grief and grieving. It’s also a wonderful way to find out if your story about loss has a flow.
Another very powerful book is called The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. Everyone I have given this book to – those experiencing loss and those writing about it – have called it invaluable. It has a different approach to that of On Death and Dying, insisting that by creating stages or time limits on recovery from grief, you’re actually limiting the person’s ability to grieve and a person should be allowed to organically recover on their own time, in their own way.
The second book is a much more intuitive way to get over a loss and I think quite valuable to the writing process.
As an exercise:
Set a timer for 10 minutes and think of a moment in your life when you experienced loss. How did you cope? Did you go through stages of grief or was it terrible and then better? Are you still recovering? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about those around you? Will you react the same way to a similar loss in the future?
Now take what you’ve learned from the exercise and apply it to your own story. Even if you’re not writing a drama, every story has a character lose something. What can you take from your own experience to help with the development of your character?
One last thing about grief, no one really knows how long it takes to get over a loss. Instead of seeing this as a problem when writing your story, celebrate the fact that you have the freedom to allow the emotional resilience of your characters to determine their response.
Good luck and happy writing…
Take a moment to donate to the Haiti Relief program now.