Vulnerability in Your Writing Builds Character

By: Laurie Oien

 

“Vulnerability really means to be strong and secure enough within yourself that you are able to walk outside without your armor on. You are able to show up in life as just you. That is genuine strength and courage. Armor may look tough, but all it does is mask insecurity and fear.” ― Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace: Essential Teachings for Enriching Life

 

Recognizing our personal characteristics and the characteristics of others is something we all have in common as we go through life. Good character can consist of many traits like integrity, honesty, loyalty, respect, courage, and compassion to name a few. Striving to build on or develop these character traits may mean uncovering our vulnerabilities.

Keywords Defining Vulnerability

• Exposed
• Undefended
• Powerless
• Unguarded
• Helpless

Identifying our own vulnerabilities, being unguarded and emotionally exposed in our writing will give more profound meaning and understanding when creating your story’s character traits, feelings, and flaws. It enhances and brings the character to life on the page. If you’re writing your own story, then being vulnerable is very essential if you want to connect with your audience.

Of course, this isn’t anything new when writing in any genre. There are endless books, songs, and movies written that feature vulnerable characters. To Kill a Mockingbird, To Sir With Love, It’s a Wonderful Life and even Cast Away to name a few. I’m sure many of your favorite and best-made movies feature an actor in a believable role of vulnerability.

Exposing Vulnerabilities Helps People Connect

I wrote a short fiction story series that spun a light-hearted story about a married couple having communication misunderstandings in their relationship, which revealed their character flaws. It’s a common problem most of us have experienced in our own relationships. Feelings are often misinterpreted by assuming the other person can read our minds or that they know how we’re feeling.

When writing or building on a character’s weakness, it requires digging deep into our own shortcomings, truths, and vulnerabilities. For some, this may be easy, but for me and others, it is difficult.

Pushing away self-doubt, being vulnerable, and willing to expose our honest emotions in our writing is a skill that develops with time and effort. Click To Tweet

Looking Deeper

The character I created in my story thinks his wife should remember a special moment they shared and how it made him feel. When she doesn’t have a clue, but later finds his behavior erratic, she assumes it’s for an entirely different reason. At the arc of the story, both have opposing viewpoints and are frustrated with each other to the point of misunderstanding what is genuinely true. 

Doesn’t this often happen in your dealings with people? Hurt feelings… twisted truths…frustrated relationships.

I honestly feel most of us are not intentionally trying to make it frustrating for the other person. We’re not purposely twisting our own truth for self-satisfaction, but rather, we’re withholding our feelings and truth-telling to avoid, to protect or to cover-up our own vulnerabilities.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. Revealing personal or intimate weaknesses is uncomfortable. Stumbling through and expressing your true emotions can feel exhausting or even scary. After all, it may result in personal judgments, or you worry how it may impact others.

There’s Strength In Our Vulnerability

If you haven’t already seen this wildly popular TEDx by Brene Brown, I invite you to listen to her excellent speech and viewpoint from her research on The Power of Vulnerability. 

In her presentation, she explains our need to feel worthy and wanting to belong. Being vulnerable gives us the courage to be imperfect, connect with authenticity and the compassion to be kind to ourselves while being able to put yourself in the shoes of others.

When I began noticing that some of my closest relationships weren’t being developed to the level I was expecting, is when I realized I wasn’t practicing vulnerability to its full potential. I felt I was burdening these relationships with my feelings or I assumed they already knew how I felt. For those relationships to grow, I had to let my guard down, be vulnerable, and express my truths even if it meant being judged by others.

The same is true when writing your poem, essay, fiction or non-fiction story. Exposing our own vulnerabilities is a way of connecting and creating meaningful stories. Brown further elaborates on this, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

Connecting to our vulnerabilities will help us grow as a person and writer. It also allows us to create a memorable character or engages profound emotions in our writing. Click To Tweet

Discover Self-Awareness in Writing

Writing has actually helped me to be less anxious about revealing my inner thoughts and feelings. This is why so many people who write or keep a journal find it very therapeutic and an exercise of self-awareness.

“Regular therapeutic writing can help the writer find meaning in their experiences, view things from a new perspective, and see the silver linings in their most stressful or negative experiences,” as explained in the article Writing Therapy: Using Pen and Paper to Enhance Personal Growth.

When reading back what you wrote does it stir emotion? Do you cry or laugh? Maybe you’ve detected where your own character is being challenged to improve.

Robert Frost, the American poet, was quoted “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

By having the courage to be vulnerable in your writing or through a character, it will develop a story that readers may identify with, and in the process, you’ve strengthened the character and perhaps yourself.  

Hopefully, by the climax of your story, your character’s truth is revealed, and it has provided growth; growth that could only be discovered by exposing their flaws, to begin with.

Getting comfortable with our own flaws and vulnerabilities will give us the advantage when drafting our next writing project. Click To Tweet

The bonus, of course, is when your writing hits a vulnerable nerve with the reader by giving them something to think about when defining their own character. By creating a connection through vulnerability, both the writer and the reader can land somewhere on a common ground that builds character.

 

Bio: Laurie Oien

Laurie is a blogger, writer and contributing author in the anthology, Feisty After 45, released by Mills Park Publishing. Laurie resides in Minnesota and enjoys finding creative ways to write on her blog about the everyday experiences with a dash of wit, inspiration and a pinch of dramatics.

You can find her enjoying the theatre, collaborating with other writers in a writing group and delighting in a daily dose of dark chocolate.  

In addition, she writes short fiction stories, essays and creative non-fiction with a style of intrigue, encouragement or humor.

Her writing has been published on Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Midlife Boulevard.  

Laurie blogs at A Square of Chocolate.

Laurie’s Blog: www.asquareofchocolate.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/asquareofchocolate/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurie_oien/

 

Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:

1) The Fiction Challenge: ‘Charlie’s Shoes’ by Laurie Oien

(Winner of the Two Drops of Ink Fiction Writing Challenge, 2017)

2) Fiction: Unusual Ink

3) Fiction: A Midnight Move

4) Finding Your Creative Ideas May Require a Goat

 

Looking for an additional platform for your writing?

Then consider a submission to Two Drops of Ink for your poetry, short story, essay, or how-to for the blogger and writer. 

 

2 comments

  1. This is a wonderful article. I am a big advocate of vulnerability being a major strength in writing and creating art. Yes! It connects you to your audience in ways that can’t be described in words. It’s fulfilling to writer and reader–two experiences, one connection.

  2. Laurie,
    I love this post! Vulnerability is such a key to any kind of writing I think. And our own realities, once faced, can and do help our characters to develop. Brene Brown is one of my favorites…her stuff on shame and vulnerability is amazing. Thanks for this article!

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