Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
What hurts can hurt a lot more when it’s written about – and it worsens when the hurt is personal – both for the reader and the writer. It’s quite like the writer screaming in personal anguish and pain. The screams, in the beginning fan the fire of voyeurism among the neighbors – and their curiosity disguised as kindness bring them to the hurt person’s aid, but when the screams become more frequent and more raucous (keeping pace with the hurt,) the neighbors start distancing themselves.
This is true for the reader too.
Let us take the case of Viral Sin, which was written in April 2020, when the Pandemic was just starting in India. It wasn’t written to “exploit” the situation – instead, it was written to keep me tethered to reality. Within Viral Sin, I’ve written “hard and clear” about what had hurt me…and the story had woven itself around my need to overcome the pain.
The Scream is within the book… but the wrapper outside didn’t work for a lot of people. I received emails from prospective readers, who told me that they couldn’t read anything around the pandemic while the pandemic was on – because the hurt of the pandemic reached deep and was personal for them.
The fact that Viral Sin is a thriller that tells the story of courage, morality, and love while talking about crime and sin…is something that must be experienced by reading it.
Hemingway’s advice is good and shall hold as long as the safety net of the audience isn’t broken. The audience, we must remember is, looking or a getaway, an escape from their present – and if the hurt is too real, too personal for them…it just might not work.