clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Light Bulb

The light bulb that goes off for a writer so often means trouble.

In this case, it is good trouble. Something clicked. I've been writing this year largely for plot. I've thought of clever stories with interesting twists that I thought would stand. However, I am disappointed. I read the drafts and I don't like them.

I eliminate the color, the description, the cute tricks we might not resist in the first draft. I cut out all exposition. I work the dialogue to tell the story (show...not tell). I'm still disappointed.

I hear today why my B.S. detector still lights up. I hear it somewhere else from something not even directed at me.

My characters take no emotional risk. Oh, I can avoid backstory. I can avoid showing why someone might be emotionally shallow or unresponsive. What I am not doing is putting a character in human conditions where they have to interact with others on any sort of emotional level. They're robots. They move plot along like little pawns.

You can buy writing like that. You can't buy a lot of it (thank Dog). Most won't be published.

So, my characters can be broken. They must however convey some desire, need, or avoidance and they must do so in an atmosphere that imperils comfort and isolation.

A "stray" isn't meaningful running across a field of clover. A "stray" is meaningful in a pound, looking up at the reader, hoping that the character is the one to save them from being put down on Tuesday.

If the reader knows Tuesday is the day, and the stray knows Tuesday is the day but the character doesn't ... then we begin to have tension. We begin to have an emotional attachment to someone at risk. We begin to care about the story. We begin to want to read the next page hoping the author didn't play mean tricks and that the stray goes home to love, comfort, use, and contentment forever. We hope as readers for a rescue for ourselves. (crappy sentiment - but true enough for me).

I understand something about why I haven't been happy with these first drafts and modest re-writes. They haven't done enough to make ME want to read on ... and I wrote them.

That will change now. Tonight. Late into the night. While the bulb is burning.