Friday, September 19, 2014

Visualization: Writing in a Way that Brings the Scene to Life

I don't profess to be an expert in writing. I've learned a lot over the years, but I believe there's always more to learn. Each time I sit down to write, I'm constantly asking myself questions.

Do the words flow? Is this the right word? Does this make my point clear? Is there enough mystery? Is the mystery so thick the reader is lost?

I have my own methods to keeping my writing strong, but my way doesn't work for everyone. The brilliant thing about reading is that there are so many differences in the way people write, you can be transported into a character's head and consider the world in a way you never would've before.

However, it never hurts to have tips about how other writers improve themselves. Even if the advice isn't spot on, it can generate ideas about new ways to look at things.

That being said, we'll move on to the meat of this post--visualization.

I recently finished reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I got completely sucked into her world. I kept trying to put it down, and I physically couldn't. Every time I was forced to walk away, I was still living in the fog of her words.

As I read, I asked myself questions, just as I do when I write. What can I draw from her example that will allow me to have the same hold on future readers?

A memory came to me while I was pouring over the pages. Two years ago, I was standing in line for lunch at the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference when I heard two people behind me discussing the last class they went to.

"Apparently," one of them said. "Metaphors light up a different part of your brain. They bring visual understanding in a way similes can't."

Since I didn't go to the class I don't know everything that was said, but that thought stuck with me. At the time I didn't know how to apply it to my writing, but after reading Fangirl I finally understood.

"Her skin sparkled like gold."

It's not a terrible simile. Pretty much everyone knows what gold looks like. On top of that, gold brings thoughts of luxury and refinement. But what if that simile was a metaphor instead? 

"Her skin was gold. Just as soft as twice as radiant."

With one little change, it went from pretty good to beautiful.

I don't think it needs saying, but from now on I'm adding the word like to list of things to check during an edit. Who needs similes anyway?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Letting the Little Things Go

Last week my youngest had a birthday. Piled among the gifts was a car from his Nana---a Lighting McQueen that will run on it's own after it's been shaken.  Perfect gift for a two year old, right? Especially for a little boy who loves engines like my guy does.

He's been roaming around the house with it clutched in his hand, driving it around, and basically having the time of his life. Every time I catch him with it though, I have to laugh. The wheels are spinning on their own, but he's still holding the car as tight as he can.

I kept telling him, "You have to let the car go." I eased it out of his hands and placed it on the floor, demonstrating the full potential of the toy. Yet, he still insists on driving it himself.

It only took me a couple of tries to realize he had to figure it out on his own, and I couldn't help him unless he wanted to be helped.

The experience made me stop and think. What am I holding onto that would work better if I just let it run?

Since I'm sitting here writing this post, I'm sure you can imagine my thoughts led me to writing.

I like to think I can be funny from time to time in my stories, or least I try to be. In fact, it's those silly/embarrassing moments I like to write the best. So when it comes time to edit, those are the scenes I have the hardest time letting go.

Problem is, all of my wit---no matter how funny---might not serve the story. I cling to my favorite parts the same way my son clings to his toy car. Sure, I can drive the story myself, but how much faster might it go if I let it fly?

Who knows, hidden potential might be found in a cut scene. I just have to remind myself that it's okay to let go.