Friday, 16 March 2007

That Mental Shift

There's a time when you find there is a small click in your mind. It's not too loud, barely audible, but you usually know when it happens because you do hear a tiny little snick and find that something you have been grappling with now has amazing clarity.

I've had it happen a few times writing the first draft of my novel, times when my brain refused to go forward no matter how much I cajoled, threatened, begged or even beat upon it. when the despair would be close enough to be palatable it would come to me, that mental movement that I required to either see my issue in a new light or deal with a situation in another manner.

Right now I am trying to get that mental shift to come to me again. The process I need to make whatever part of my grey matter realise that it has a job to do and the sooner it just accepts it and gets on with the job the sooner both of us will be happy.

So what am I waiting on my mind to work out? It's simple, I have to get into my head that despite the fact I have faced my demons and written near 500 pages of a first draft, I now need to go back and start from the start and work on that draft. Take it from my basic idea and turn it into something engaging, something that others will want to read so they can leave their own lives behind just for a few chapters at a time. They want to be stimulated and taken places that their own imagination can't take them.

If I can get this next draft done I'll be close to taking them there. I just need to hear something. That little snick. That mental shift.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Emotion for Impact

I've read numerous times how showing the emotion of a character can often have a much greater impact than an outright telling dialog. I've often struggled to remember good examples of this, but now I won't have to.

In the April 2007 edition of The Writer magazine (US) there are two FANTASTIC examples of before & after writing relating to showing more emotion in your writing. Unfortunately I can't reprint it here due to copyright issues but I'll give you the detail for you to check it out for yourself.

The first is actually an example of clarifying a Turning Point, but I think it also doubles as a great example of emotion v's dialog. It's the Before and After on page 27

The second is an actual example pitched directly at emotion and is another excellent example of how to get into the head of a character instead of listening to them talk. It's the Before and After on page 46.

So, how about an example from me? I'll give it a go:

"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.
Jill fidgeted, "I don't know. Looks like it might rain."
"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."
Jill couldn't look him in the eyes, "Well it might, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."
"Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me," Jack said before storming off.

Ok, that is some lousy dialogue, but what I am trying to go for there is showing how Jill doesn't want to go anywhere with Jack. I could re-write it with more dialogue, try to get across my point in words, maybe they could have an argument. Or I could try again, with the same amount of dialogue, but this time with more feeling and see which one has greater impact to the reader:

"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.

Jill felt a lurch in her stomach. Jack was always asking her to go places with him, but he creeps her out so much. She's never felt comfortable around him and his incessant gaze is just too intense.

Looking down she played with a thread at the hem of her shirt and said, "I don't know, it looks like it might rain." Out of the corner of her eye she could see his hands open and close by his sides, clenching into fists.

"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."

She kept her head down knowing that if she looked at Jack he would see the real truth in her eyes. Her pulse quickened with fear. What would he do if he realised she wasn't interested in him, in that way? "Well it could rain, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."

She winced, immediately knowing it for the lame excuse it was. But what could she do? Jack always scrambled her thoughts and she just hated that she could never come up with those fast snappy responses that quick thinking people can. People smarter than she is.

Jack's voice lowered, "Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me." He turned and stormed off.

Ok, a pretty bad example I think, but it's an off-the-cuff scene. I like to think the second scene has stronger impact even though they havn't actually said anything more than in the first attempt. Do more "words" equal a better scene? I don't think so, as I could have made it a lot heavier on the dialogue and still not gotten accross what I intended with how Jill felt.

If none of the above helps, or you think I am talking out of my ass, then get yourself a copy of The Writer and see what I mean for yourself. They really are great examples.

Thursday, 1 March 2007


I didn't realise I had been quiet for a while. Rest assured I have been busy with writing projects. Ok, by saying that I'll be honest and admit to not having started the REAL re-write of my novel yet, but I have been getting some advice in regards to it and I have been critiquing other work too.

I usually get a favorable response to the critiques I give and it is something I enjoy doing. Not for the first time I was told this week that if I can look at someone elses work with such a clinical eye then my own work will be fantastic. Well unfortunately some early critique of my own early work shows that is not the case. Because of this I have been trying to work out why I seem to do such a good job at examining other people's writing yet fail a bit of some really obvious stuff regarding my own.

I think I know why.

It's not that I was expecting to be a brilliant writer with my first novel, far from it. But I think I missed a lot of basic structure in my first draft and first read because I have half an idea of what's coming next.

Because I think I know where my own story is going I am probably not giving it the writing detail that I should be. When I am critiquing other peoples' work I, of course, have no idea where the author is going so it is much easier for me to identify when I think a story or character is weak.

Like with everything I guess I just have to make myself write the same way technical documentation is written, with the assumption the reader has no idea about the subject and needs to be told everything.

Of course this then runs into the risk of over telling, so of course there is a fine line between improvement and making the story worse.

But hey, it's my first novel, I have a long way to go and a LOT to learn.