Monday, November 26, 2012

Weave in Story Details

Work on observing your surroundings using all five senses. What does the wind smell like? What does rain taste like? What does a wooded area sound like? Describe the bark of different trees. How is today’s rain storm different than yesterday’s? How is a hot day different than a hot night? Start now to really notice the world around you—listen, feel, taste, experience it.

Next, translate these sensations to your character. What does he or she smell or hear when he or she enters the dark woods behind the row of houses? Instinct tells the character not to take the path through the woods as a short cut, but he or she has no choice. So, allow the reader to experience this place through the sensations the character encounters. 

New writers often tell the reader what happens in the story rather than showing the story unfold. The rule of thumb is "show, don't tell" (SDT). Showing involves the reader. It makes him or her feel and see the details of the story. Telling, or summarizing, slows the story down. You then risk losing the reader to the action of television or computer games. Sensory detail helps you as the author ensure a connection is created and maintained between the character and the reader. In many stories, depending on point of view, the reader will momentarily become the main character. So, describing what the character smells, hears, touches, sees, thinks, etc. strengthens the reader’s connection to a story. Dialogue is another great way to sneak in story details because it draws the reader into the story—and it ensures that something is happening in the scene. 

So, practice noticing details around you and translate that to your characters. Remember to show the reader by weaving in these details in through the reaction of the viewpoint character and through dialogue. 

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How Writing is like Cooking

NOTE:  I'm trying to fix glitches with links between my different accounts. This blog, originally posted at Wonderings and Wanderings was supposed to also post here. I've posted a condensed version that focuses on the writing connection. 

I usually spend a good portion of my weekend in the kitchen making meals for the coming week. This weekend, however, none of my recipes turned out. I tried to blend two muffin recipes to create a "harvest fruit" muffin. Dud! I think I needed more baking powder or perhaps some baking soda. And, I plain forgot to include an ingredient in one dish until it was in the oven. Too bad I couldn't pull it out and add it (which is a wonderful revision technique for writing but doesn't bode well with step-by-step instructions).
But, in the end, I wasn't upset. First, not all the kitchen mishaps were inedible. Second, the time spent perfectly links with writing. Like these failed  recipes, sometimes we need to write scenes in stories, only to discard them later. It's not that they are awful; it's that they don't work with the other "ingredients" in the story for the most tasty outcome.
I think this is one of the hardest things for newer writers to understand about revising. Sometimes we need to write a specific scene with a character but its purpose is to help us further develop that character. It doesn't necessarily need to remain in the finished story. And sometimes, we need to add a scene (or ingredient) to boost suspense or keep the reader hooked. In the end, the reader doesn't need to know all that you had to accomplish in the kitchen---or even how many attempts it took to get the "recipe" right. The reader only cares about how tasty the end result is.
So, test your ingredients and don't be afraid to toss the "duds." Happy writing!