Category Archive for: "craft of writing"
There’s a great drawing by Picasso that I don’t remember the name of, but it’s a nude. Four strokes of a pencil, very simple lines, and there it is: a naked butt. That’s how I like to do description.
Only, my readers keep telling me they want more. In writing terms, it’s call white room syndrome. It’s no coincidence that terms that describe writing come straight out of psychiatry. Yet I know, when I’m reading, if the description goes on for more than a medium-long sentence, I start skipping ahead. Maybe it’s idiosyncratic.
I aim for a largely PG13 effect in my characters, but I’m trying to get them to be a bit more gritty. Like ‘bugger a bunny’ or the occasional F word. I’m thinking occasional means that in a novel it would occur about every third chapter or six to eight times in the entire novel. That’s, I think, a good ratio.
But I’m open to opinions, and if you are suggestive, please say why. How often?
that’s the new devotion to outlines is boring and painful. The neurosis has to extend to characters, also. If you want to know why, I’ll do it at a later date or you can ask me: Why?
The new process includes a character outline that details things like background, motivation, what they value, how they speak and their favorite gestures. That’s one set of pages. The other set of pages is the short story that needs revision. And that’s the problem.
Boring and painful: I look at my character outline, firmly get them into my working thoughts, and start changing the story based on that. In about five minutes, I realize I’ve fallen back into my old habit of how to revise. I stop. I say shit. I go back to firmly indenting the character outline in my head and I go back to revising, only a few lines further down into this looong story. Repeat indefinitely.
I decided to become an outline person.
Writer’s divide themselves into pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants without planning) and those who plan ahead and improve the outline before committing words to the page. The reality is that there is a mix of outlining and free form writing that everyone does, and everyone leans more or less toward one style or the other.
For the last three years or so I’ve been pushing myself to lean more toward the unplanned whirling chaos of the free writing – let’s get weird and wonderful and creative without an outline. Another writer and I talked about the difficulties of writing a multiple-book series. I suddenly realized that some of my problems might not be with the writing, but the general lack of outline. And I’m applying that new awareness to the short story I’m currently working on instead of the novel that I’m bored with.
I decided to come back to the blog. But before I do that, I need to say why I left. The blog wasn’t interesting to me, period. So why would anyone read it? And as a writer, I’m always trying to reach an audience. Over a year ago I knew I needed to take a few weeks off and wait for an idea.
When I talk to strangers, they seem most interested in me as a writer. So I should blog about that. Sounds simple enough. The actual day-to-day slog is me stuffing chopped words into a sausage of a story. The development of characters and ideas is the added beauty that makes the words sing.
Lately, what I’m thinking about is age. I’m not interested in writing YA fiction, but I am jealous because the age of the main character is defined. Pick an audience: say 8th grade. That defines the age and maturity of the protagonist. I’m trying to write for all adults. To reach the most of these readers I have to guess at the best age for my hero. Or I can ask you the reader: What’s the best age for a main character?