Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's all about touch....

 I was going to title today’s blog post, “Toucha toucha touch me”  but decided against planting the ear worm in the heads of any Rocky Horror fans (sorry- just did it anyway ;)) and figured it might indicate the wrong type of touch for this current post ;).

I’ve decided that I’d like to take a few posts and look at the senses and how they get used, abused, or abandoned in our writing. Please join in and add your comments and views J.

The most basic way we communicate and learn isn’t language, it’s our senses.  We start off using them as babies when the world of language is still in the “too be coming” phase. Adding senses to our writing makes it more real for the reader.  The reader may not stop and say, “well that writer didn’t use enough of the senses, I don’t believe that book”.  But they may say that they didn’t connect with the book or the characters—one warning sign that you might not be coming across as authentic as you could be.  Your people weren’t as well rounded as they should be and the reader noticed it.  Even if it’s not as jump up and grab you by the hair as some other writer mistakes it can still stop a reader in their tracks.

Sight and sound are probably the two most basic of senses, and ones most writers manage to toss in there (but please- no “roaming eyes”…makes me think of a horror movie ;)).

But what about the other senses?

Everyone relies on touch one way or another.  When we’re little we use it to build our view of the world.  Later we use it to convey things like comfort, friendship, and anger.

 In writing we can use it to express our character’s personality and world views.  Does your character always hold their arm?  Fold their arms in front of them? Rub the side of their face when lying? Do they have any other physical tics of self touch (no, not that kind) that indicate who they are and their mood? How does your character feel about their body?  That can be mined for physical reactions that can expose internal feelings of the character without going all info-dump on the reader's head.

Touching items can also be an interesting way to give a break between dialogue or other actions.  Does your character find comfort in running their hands across silk?  Lost in thought they rub a worry stone?  These would be little touches, tiny things that aren’t major actions in themselves, and should be subtle, but also manage to add to the entire world were writing.

Touch can indicate a disorder, someone who has to touch every mail box he sees but exhibits no other signs of OCD for example. There may be a very good reason your character hates to be hugged by anyone—even their lover.  Or why someone always hugs their friends good-bye.

Touch is a vital way for characters to communicate with each other, but also to communicate to the reader.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

No, they really can't see inside your mind

For some folks, the title of today's post brings a feeling of relief.  They are free to take off that foil hat and stop getting odd looks everywhere they go.

For us writers they are words of warning.

Your reader CAN'T see inside your head.  When we write we see what's going on with the story, whether we're a pantser, plotter, or plantser-- we know what is there.  We know what is coming.  We may giggle a few pages in because--boy oh boy-- we know a funny bit that the reader is just going to LOVE happens on page fifteen.

But the reader can't see that.

They see only what we show them (see earlier post about the slug, dog and rocking chair ;)).  If we fill the first few pages with backstory, or fluff, or a wonderfully emotional opening that has no real bearing in our story, they get confused.  Or lost.  Or confused, lost, and annoyed.

Confused, lost, and annoyed readers stop reading.

Our main goal-beyond getting these words out of our heads- is to get those words in the hands of readers.  ANYTHING that stops that ruins the chances that our book will survive to be read.

This makes sense, I see many of you nodding and agreeing.  Of course I need to make sure the beginning grabs the reader.  But too many times we get so excited by our world, by what's coming around the corner, that we loose track of what we're really showing the reader.  We put in stuff they don't need.

I recently realized that while one of my books started in the right place so to speak, I needed to move some bits to the front.  The book wasn't getting across it's true colors.  So, I took a funny bit a few pages in and made it the beginning. 

It works much better now, it gets the feel of the book out there faster, and isn't counting on the reader to see what's coming (since, even without foil, they really can't see inside my head ;)).

So what about you?  Have you looked for those points in your writing where you like it because you know what's coming?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

But am I a HACK?

Yup- it's that time again- time for writers of all stripes to shout their insecurities into the great void of cyberspace and pray it doesn't echo back with a "you're right".

So today I thought I deal with the biggie, the one faced by millions of writers and from which all other insecurities stem from--being a hack.

hack writer - a mediocre and disdained writer
It's that whole mediocre bit that gets me.  Writers spend most of our time alone, hacking (;)) away at words in the dark confines of our writer hobbit holes, hoping that what we're putting together is awesome and will wow the literary world.  Or at least our chosen corner of it.
But no matter how many words I write, no matter how many new worlds, or new characters, I can't help that fear that it's all lacking.  That instead of flinging words of wonder out into the Universe I'm flinging something more likely to be found being flung at a zoo.
Now, logically (don't you hate it when logic interferes with a perfectly good, 'woe is me' rant?) I have enough evidence that I am not a hack.  Probably.  Enough industry professionals (who had no vested emotional reason to lie to me) have commented on my writing in a positive manner that I am not a hack. Random readers in contests, also with no vested interest in my mental well being, have given positive feedback to also support this hypothesis.
But logic doesn't kick in when it comes to that fear, that terror, that maybe I am just a hack and perhaps the professionals in question were on meds that day...or off their meds...or had too much coffee and were in a manic caffeine happy high.
I do wonder at what point the fear goes away. But until then, I'll continue battling with my inner demons and keep putting the words down.
Eventually it gets better.  Right?