Devil in the Details

This is a basics post. I find it useful to review the basics of writing from time to time to make sure that my scenes are as powerful, emotional, or descriptive as I can make them without a lot of exposition. I’m a story person. Give me the details that I can use to get the scene in my head and keep going. I don’t want to read every last detail of how the white flower looked wilting in the cracked, blue bowl on the scarred table. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d have turned one on. I want to make my own movie.

The example that springs to mind (and yes, I’m dating myself again) is Snoopy sitting on the doghouse with his typewriter, “It was a dark and stormy night . . . ” Ok, sure I get the point. But wouldn’t you rather read, “The wind howled through the trees. The blanket of night wrapped around him as he squinted trying to see . . . ” Also corny, but you get the point as well. Small details in active words, give me a picture to go with and I’m a happy camper ready to get into your story.

What brought this to my attention is that I happened to read 3 separate posts on this in 2.5 weeks. The first one that I came across in my random writing craft quests was on the Romance University. For some reason Romance writers seem to be the most committed group of people to educating the masses in how to write. Anyway, the post was Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV. It mentioned a book by Jill Elizabeth Nelson called (go figure) Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View. I read the post, glanced at the book and forgot about it. A second post I came across was actually published 2 days before the previously mentioned one talking about the same book. Funny. I did a little more researching on the book, and went on my merry way.

Did you ever hear the quote by Ian Flemming in Goldfinger? “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Within 2 weeks, I read another post by the fabulous Patricia C. Wrede talking about virtually the same thing. Ok, enough with the brick to the head. Maybe this is something I should pay attention to. I go back and look at my writing. Light bulb! I see where this can be very useful. So every now and then your subconscious might be reminding you of something that you once knew but have forgotten. If you’ve never seen it before, well this is a chance to learn something new.

Finally, the key that brought all this together in my mind also came from Patricia C. Wrede in her post Imperfect Telepathy. Because after all, when I read a story, I want MY movie. Cheers.

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Plotting or plodding?

I am working on my plot this week. I never really thought about what plot is until I started struggling with my own version. I have the major ideas that are not character or setting based, but when it came down to the sequence of events that happened either to force the characters to react or not I got stuck. When I get stuck, I have the habit of reading writing blogs, books, websites, magazines or whatever I can get my greedy hands on to work through it in my subconscious. (Yes, I know I’m a writing geek.) I came across this sentence in Patricia C. Wrede’s Fabulous (my word not hers) Blog that really got me thinking (to the point that I wrote this without finishing the rest of her blog on Plot until afterwards.) She wrote:

A plot, by my definition, is a sequence of events, nearly always tied together by causality, that involve characters and take place in a setting. I prefer the sort that have a problem to solve and some sort of resolution or closure at the end.

What it got me thinking about was that I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been talking to other writers and they think they are talking about plot but in reality they are talking about character issues or setting issues. Not that it’s right or wrong. If that is what they are focusing on, great, it’s their book not mine. I like plot. I love how I can make something happen that the characters now have to deal with. Remember the pool with the shark? If the shark is hungry or the character is bleeding it is no longer sink or swim . . . it is live or die. So plot can do a lot with a story. Turn it in a direction you’re not expecting. Or the plot point hit and the character is now doing something you didn’t expect. I love those moments of discovery in my writing. The hope that I keep experiencing these things and enjoying them keeps me sitting down to see what the characters do next.

Back to the plodding . . . I mean plotting. Is my sequence of events moving too slowly? I am beginning to think that instead of plotting I’m plodding. I might have added too much detail of what is going on (for my taste) in how a book is paced. I know there are a lot of writers who can focus on the small details and really make it come to life for a lot of readers. Robert Parker comes to mind with the descriptions of cooking or food in his Spenser novels. Science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Stanislaw Lem, and Poul Anderson come to mind where they go into great detail of the science of how things work. My dirty secret: I skip these parts. I’m a character person, a plot person, a setting person . . . a story person. I could care less how the dish was made, what ingredients went into it, or how it tasted to the characters. I don’t want to know how the faster-than-light-engine works, or the super-duper-insta-trasporter broke and how we’re going to fix it unless it is a key part of the plot. I know people who love that kind of story because that kind of detail makes it real for them. But that is not my thing.

I think I’ll try and adjust the zoom lens on my internal camera and see if putting the plot into less granular detail helps me move ahead with this story. Just gotta remember where the key points are and keep going. Maybe then I’ll stop plodding and start plotting again.

Cheers.

Author’s note: Apologies for the week hiatus. My sister was getting married and I didn’t account for how much I would get sucked in to doing things around and for the wedding. Therefore I got NO writing done.