Friday, December 13, 2013

Writing Illusions

This started in my tiny little brain early this week when I was with some wonderful writing buddies of mine.  We were discussing different aspects of writing and that it really is about impressions.  Or as I started thinking about it- illusions of real life.

When we all started out as writers, I’m sure we all did the same thing- describe the hell out of EVERYTHING.   What people looked like down to the smallest details, places, houses, kitchens, closets, stores…yeah, you name it, I can promise it has been described to death by thousands of writers.

We do it because, especially when we’re just starting, we’re trying to make it real for the reader—to do that we need to make them see it, right? Every last button, lace, design on the dagger?

Ummm- no.

Good writing has a trick to it—it implies real life, it gives the illusion of real life, but it’s not real life.  Use dialogue as an example.  We may eavesdrop on folks to pick up on things, but you’d never use “real” conversation in a book (and if you are, stop it. Please. ) .  In real conversation people are repetitive, they use fillers (um, ah, etc) they talk over each other, hop subjects, are boring, and a whole lot more.

So, we don’t write like people speak-- we write what feels like how people speak.  Our dialogue needs to give the illusion of real conversation, but in a much tighter and structured form. 

The same thing with description.  A laundry list filled with tiny details might make for a happy writer in some cases, but it’s not going to make for a happy reader.  As writers we have to give an impression of our characters, their homes, their lives.  Give enough detail to anchor the reader a bit, then let the reader’s imagination do the heavy lifting- let THEM determine what everything looks like.

I had a friend ask how I pronounced one of my character’s names once.  I shrugged and told her.  She frowned and said she thought it was something else.  To which I said, “Yep, you’re right too”.  I know how my characters look, sound, move, react.  It’s in my head all the time.  But once a reader meets them, those characters are theirs now as well.  If they build that character based on your words and their own imagination, that character becomes far more real to them than if the writer forced a list of descriptives down their throat.

Heavy lists of what things look like actually slow down the reader as they try to pull the very detailed image together.  It slows them down and pulls them out of your story.  A death sentence for any book.

I’ve come across books that gave me no classic descriptives of a character at all.  No eye color, hair color, skin color, height, weight, nothing.

And I can promise you I KNEW what that character looked like just from the writer’s other words.  Now, did my character look like what the writer was thinking?  Maybe, maybe not.  But what’s important was that I as the reader saw the character. I didn't see the writer telling me about the character.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IWSG- Chasing the mojo

Yes, it's that time again- the once a month blog hop that crosses the world in which writers yell into the void.

Today it's more about doing what's healthy.  Or rather NOT doing what's healthy, rewarding, and even sometimes fun.

This thought can be applied to exercising, blogging, and writing (insert your own, "really should do it, feel better when I do" item here).

I'll be honest, I don't like to work out.  It's a hassle, icky, tiring.  What I like is having had WORKED out. I know I need to and it feels great after I do it.  Sometimes even while I'm doing it.  Yet getting me to DO it is always a fight.

I'm realizing the same thing is happening with my writing.  I love having written. Now, don't get me wrong, there are those times where you hit a sweet spot and writing itself is an amazing high.  But for the most part, I really prefer editing, fixing, slicing and dicing, to the actual nitty gritty of writing.

I'm thinking this mindset could be why my writing mojo keeps wandering off like some demented little gnome lost in a mall.  I'm not giving it the right motivation.

It doesn't want to write, it wants to have written.  So, if I can explain to it's sugar addled mind that if it gets my butt in the chair, it'll have more words to play with later--instead of trying to convince it it really does like blank pages--I might get it to work!

So that's my plan going forth.  What about you?  How is your writing (or anything that you should do/even like to do--but don't always do it)?

Happy Wednesday!