My three-year old granddaughter, Paisley, is…shall we say, a handful. She is the most “independent” thinker I’ve ever met. Adults included. She takes issue when you state the obvious. Like in her little over-acting three-year old mind, she already knows the answer so why do you insist on voicing it?
Example: Paisley: Mommy saw a bug and screamed like a girl.
Me (grandma): Mommy is a girl.
Paisley (complete with eye rolling): I know. That’s why she screamed.
Gotta love this child. She got aggravated because I was telling her something she already knew. Much the same way a reader will feel when they’re beat over the head with information they already know. If your character, John, gets up from the couch to go get a beer in the kitchen, do you have to tell the reader he opens the fridge? No. It’s obvious. Unless he keeps his stash in a Styrofoam cooler, which might be an interesting side note. I like to refer to this type narrative as stage directions: he got up, went into the kitchen, opened the fridge, removed a beer…works great on a stage. Not so much in a book.
I’d rather know why John wanted a beer than read a step-by-step narrative of his physical motions in his trek to get the beer. Hard day at work? If he worked at all…perhaps he lost his job? Maybe he just wanted to drink a cold one while he watched the game? What game? Baseball? Football? Each of these little tidbits adds characterization to John, turning him into a three dimensional character. Rather than just someone who got up off the couch, went into the kitchen, opened the fridge…
My beautiful little Paisley with her little brother, Aiden. They were fascinated by the printer.
Lynn C Willis – Fiction Writer: What was the question?: Have you ever talked with someone who rambles? They ask a question at the beginning of the conversation but don’t give you a chance to respo…
Have you ever talked with someone who rambles? They ask a question at the beginning of the conversation but don’t give you a chance to respond until it’s too late. Too late meaning you’ve forgotten what the question is!
I see this often in written dialog, too. The writer will have Character A ask a question or say something that needs/deserves/warrants a response from Character B, followed by several lines of narrative. By the time we get to Character B’s response, we readers forget what he/she is responding to. And you never want the reader to have to go back and re-read a passage for it to make sense. It interrupts the flow. Do it too much, and they’ll stop going back and simply return the book to the bookshelf.
Example: “So how do you take your coffee?” John asked. He pulled two mugs from the cabinet. One, his prized NY Yankees mug with the embossed logo, the other one a black one with the green logo of the furniture company he used to work for. That was back in his married days. He was a single man now and rather enjoying his new life.
“Black,” Miranda said.
My first thought after reading Miranda’s dialog is black what? I had forgotten what she was responding to. I worried poor Miranda had some kind of condition that made her spout out random words. But then I went back and re-read sleazy John’s question and her line of dialog made sense. I went back and re-read. Not a good thing. I’ll give the author one more chance, then it’s back to collecting dust for this baby.
A better way to write the above passage is to simply put the action (John removing the mugs) after Miranda’s line.
Example: “So how do you take your coffee?” John asked.
“Black,” said Miranda.
John pulled two mugs….
Ahhh…can you feel the flow?
Lynn C Willis – Fiction Writer: Misbehaving Characters: As a parent, one of our jobs is to lead and guide our children safely from childhood to adulthood. In addition to all the love and support w…
As a parent, one of our jobs is to lead and guide our children safely from childhood to adulthood. In addition to all the love and support we give them, occasionally they may need a swift pop to their little bottoms or time out or maybe even grounding for the older ones. And then sometimes, no matter how hard we try, they just won’t do what we want them to do.
Writers face the same problem with their characters. Sometimes our little loves just want to misbehave. They refuse to do what we ask them to do. They go off in a different direction than what we intended. But the difference between parenting a child and parenting a character is sometimes us writers have to let them go. Let them do what they want, go where they want, say what they want. It makes for a much better story if the characters have control. You’re just the vehicle they’re using to tell their story.
While writing “Wink of an Eye”, I ran into a situation where Gypsy (of course, the troublemaker) wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do. The scene was supposed to be super sexy hot (because he’s that kind of guy!) but it kept coming out funny…laugh out loud funny. I rewrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted, etc…until I was ready to send him straight to time out. With no supper. And no Ipad. And then a friend in my critique group (thanks Robin!) said something very profound. She said the woman in the scene with Gypsy, Sophia, wasn’t his Kathleen Turner Body Heat lover. Claire was. And Gypsy knew it all along. I just wouldn’t listen to him. So he has a really hot sexy scene with Claire, and a laugh out loud sexy scene with Sophia. He’s such a bad boy.
I treasure my playlists more than my tattered, dog-eared Roget’s Thesaurus. Why? My playlist puts me there, where I need to be when I’m writing. If I’m not there, I can’t expect the reader to be. Some writers need silence. No distractions. Some need the crackle of a television. Background noise. I need a soundtrack of carefully chosen songs that convey the mood, emotion, and action of the scenes in my head. Only when they’re matched with that perfect song, do the scenes find their way to paper (or the keyboard). I may only have five songs in a particular playlist but I play them on a loop so I’m always there.
I wrote a very dramatic, pivotal scene yesterday. With the television on—it was a The Walking Dead marathon! I thought I did okay with the television, rather than my playlist, on in the background. Until I re-read the scene today. Way over the top melodramatic! I laughed out loud. It came no where even close to conveying the emotions I wanted conveyed. It read like a bad, really bad, bodice-ripping romance. And it’s in the suspense genre, not romance!
I deleted most of the scene, tuned in to my playlist and re-worked it. Thanks to Maroon 5’s Come Away to the Water for taking me there.
Leg bone? Ankle bone? And probably Twitter and Facebook somehow.
Connecting everything was a job! You can now access my Facebook page, Twitter page, and blog from my website. This is a good thing. I think.
Several years ago I went to Disney World with my daughter and son-in-law. We stayed at one of the hotels on the Disney compound. Everything was peachy at Disney World, their hotel, their compound. The outside world didn’t exist. Literally. I turned the television on in the room and it was set to the Disney channel. No matter how many times you pressed the channel up or down button, you had no choice but to watch the Disney channel. Outside the lobby, there were no newspaper racks with various newspapers from around the area, country, or world. Because you were at Disney World. You had no need for “other” news.
Only a writer can see a conspiracy at the happiest place on earth (or is that the circus?). But as a United States citizen, I had the right to hear, read, see what ever news I wanted. You don’t realize the truth of that until the freedom to do so is taken away.
Writers, especially writers, should embrace our country’s freedom. We have the right to write whatever the muse leads us to write. People died to give us that right. I appreciate their sacrifice.
Lynn C Willis – Fiction Writer: Birthing characters: Remember that famous scene from that little movie “Gone with the Wind”? Butterfly McQueen cries out I don’t know how to birth no baby! It’s …
Remember that famous scene from that little movie “Gone with the Wind”? Butterfly McQueen cries out I don’t know how to birth no baby! It’s easy. I’ve been doing it all day with the help of Pinterest. A few days ago, I pinned pictures of the setting for my current WIP (work in progress). Today I chose the music for the playlist I’ll have playing in the background while I work on said WIP. And lastly, I pinned images of the two main characters. I birthed character babies!
Now if I can only talk John Hamm into playing my main male character in the movie version, I’ll be set. Wish me luck on that one!