Guilt is one of the most difficult emotions to describe in writing. For those who have experienced it, it is easier to put into words how they feel rather than actually articulate it. There are numerous different situations in which one could feel guilty, so it is difficult to know where to start. It is also not easy to know how to end the feeling, especially since it tends to manifest itself in different ways depending on the person and the situation. Nevertheless, it is important to try and put into words what you are feeling so that others can understand.
There are several tips and tricks for describing guilt in creative writing, and although they may not seem obvious at first, they can all make a difference. Writing about guilt can be incredibly therapeutic, as it forces you to confront and deal with the issues head-on. It can also be cathartic to finally get things off your chest that you have kept bottled up inside for far too long. Let’s take a look at how to describe guilt in creative writing.
Start From The Inside
As stated above, for those who have experienced guilt it is much easier to describe than to put into words. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you need to follow the same path to be able to write about it. The first thing you should do before starting any creative writing is to ask yourself the following questions:
- What triggered the guilt?
- What are the main causes of my guilt?
- What should I change about myself to feel less guilty?
- What do I need to do to make up for the sins that I have committed?
By answering these questions, you will begin to see how your actions, choices, or failures have led you to feel guilty, and you will have a clearer picture of the root of the problem. Only then can you move on to the next step.
Understand The Source Of The Guilt
In some cases, the cause of your guilt could be relatively simple. For example, you could be guilty because you took the easier route to get a college degree rather than working your way through school. In other cases, it could be slightly more complicated. The important thing is that you should be able to pinpoint the exact reasons for your guilt, otherwise, it becomes much more difficult to tackle. Once you have all of the information, you can start putting it down on paper. Let’s take a look at some of the more common sources of guilt:
- Misconduct (doing something wrong)
- Harming others (intentionally or unintentionally)
- Comparison (feeling that you are not as good as others, often leading to inferiority feelings)
- Resentment (feeling spite or hatred towards those who wronged you)
- Revenge (feeling that you deserve to get even with those who offended you)
It is important to understand that not all guilt is created equal. There are different types of guilty, such as ‘acquitted’ and ‘original’ guilt. Acquitted guilt is when you feel guilty but it relates to a situation that you were not directly responsible for. For example, if you were in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, part of you might feel responsible, but you were not the one who got in the accident. In some situations, this type of guilt can be completely excusable. For example, if you are the type of person who is very safety-conscious and worried about being hit by a car, then you might feel guilty if you see someone driving recklessly near you. In these cases, it is important to realize that although you feel guilty, you did not commit the actual offense. In original guilt, you are directly responsible for the situation that led to your feeling of guilt. This type of guilt is very destructive and can follow you around for the rest of your life. People who suffer from this type of guilt generally hold a grudge against whoever or whatever they hold responsible for their predicament. In this case, it may be difficult to separate the source of the problem from the actual feeling of guilt. If you can, it is usually a good idea to work through as much of the original guilt as you can before attempting to tackle the more prevalent or surface-level forms of guilt.
Put Your Feelings Into Words
If you can, it is usually a very good idea to write down your thoughts and feelings about the situation that lead to your guilt. In an extreme case, you could begin by writing a short biography of yourself, detailing your entire life story. This can help you identify with the character you are creating and give you a clearer picture of what triggered your guilt. Once you begin writing, you may discover that your feelings change throughout the process. This is completely normal, as it is difficult for someone to understand what they are feeling unless they write it down. The important thing is to keep going until you have expressed all of your feelings. Once you have finished, you can take a step back and analyze what you have written.
In creative writing, there are several different styles and ways of writing. Some prefer putting characters in more of an omniscient narrator point of view, while others prefer using first-person narrative. The choice is largely based on your individual preferences. As long as you are consistent and follow a basic structure, there is no wrong way to write.
When you are searching for the roots of your guilt, it is usually best to begin small. Take note of a situation that caused you to feel even one iota of guilt, regardless of what it was. This will then become the focal point of your story and the trigger that sets off the entire chain of events leading to your emotional turmoil. From there, you can expand your scope and write about other related issues that contribute to your guilt. In some instances, this could mean that your story is told from the eyes of a child or an unborn fetus. In other cases, you could write about your time in prison or how you were abandoned as a child. Whatever the case may be, begin small and work your way up to the larger picture.
Do Not Judge Yourself
One of the main issues that tends to arise when someone experiences guilt is self-judgment. It is easy to judge others for their conduct, especially if they hurt or abuse you in some way. This is completely different from judging yourself. In order to write an effective essay or short story, you must be careful not to judge yourself for the same things. The key to avoiding this is to simply ask yourself questions. If you judge yourself based on the same criteria you use for judging others, then you are setting yourself up for extreme guilt and possibly depression. The best way to avoid this is to simply ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were in this situation?” As long as you refrain from judgment, you will not be able to produce an effective work of art. In other words, it is always better to ask for help rather than struggle alone.
Take A Step Back
When you are writing about guilt, it is important to take a step back and analyze everything. In many cases, this can mean that you need to re-examine your life and examine choices that you have made, either consciously or unconsciously. It can also mean that you need to take a look at yourself and your own character, searching for any weaknesses or flaws that you may have. In some situations, this reexamination could even lead you to question the existence of God. This is a very common reaction when someone is confronted with their own mortality. Even for those who do not believe in God, this examination can still lead them to question whether or not they will go to heaven when they die. Creative writing can be very confronting and, at times, overwhelming. However, once you reach the end and start applying what you have learned, the feeling of relief is usually palpable.
Writing about guilt can be difficult, especially if you have not actively engaged in this type of work. Nevertheless, it is an important exercise, as it can lead you to examine different aspects of yourself, your life, and the world around you. If you can put all of this into words, you may discover that this is not as bad as you thought it was. Not only that, but you may also learn something new about yourself and the person you wanted to become. Sometimes, this is all that we need to get us through the day.