You see, if you’re like me, you only feel comfortable telling people your rank, serial number and how many toothbrushes you go through every year. You find it hard ratting yourself out by saying, “I’m a writer.”
What I tend to do, if I’m asked what I do, is skirt around the question. I’ll say, “I do a little writing.” “I’m trying to write a book. I doubt I’ll ever get it finished” “I have this idea for a story but I’m not sure it’s going anywhere.” I seldom say, “I’m writing. I’m a writer. I’m writing a novel.” Take that and put it in your pipe.
I told him that in actual fact, I preferred to be working on something that I’d already got down in rough. It’s hard work too, but easier in some ways. Because I don’t have the problem of worrying whether I’m going to lose a transient thought or emotion before I get it down on paper. It’s there. It’s solid in its actual existence. (Like Smiley above!)
It’s like decorating an empty apartment, when you’ve paid the first and last months’ rent. You know it’s yours. You can relax. Take your time getting it set up the way you want it to look. Unless, of course, there's an urgent reason to get it done quickly.
I’ll give you an example. Let me take a paragraph from my story, “Pigs, Prophets and Haunted Depths”. It can be found in my book, “White Eyes”. Let me show you what it looked like in the rough. Then I’ll show you the finished paragraph. Hang on. Here goes. “It felt like a thousand lizards were crawling over my body. I was losing my courage and I wanted to run like hell. Like Denise’s sister, I wanted out of the trailer, except the heavy rain was pounding down outside. So I leaped back into the bed, still having to have a pee. The blankets soggy, heavy and offering minimal protection.”
This paragraph reveals that the character is frightened, probably very frightened. Outside the rain is pounding down. The character is too scared to escape whatever scared him in the trailer and instead he runs back to his the bedroom, crawls into his bed and shivers the rest of the night away under his damp blankets.
The emotional action is laid out. I know where the lines are. What the parameters of this paragraph are all about. Now my job is to sit down, or stand up if I prefer, and fill that room with more details so the reader can really get a feel for this character’s sensations and situation.
The finished paragraph looks like this:
“I was overwhelmed with the sense of a thousand tiny lizards crawling all over my body, their wee nails pricking into my courage and leaving me with an unmanageable desire to run like hell. Like Denise’s sister, I wanted out of the trailer, except Niagara Falls was demolishing the night. So I leaped back into the bed, kidneys as seized up as I was. The blankets damp, heavy, and offering minimal protection.”
There, I think the character’s experience is clearer. The room has been enhanced.
Something struck me while I was writing the example paragraph from “White Eyes”. I wrote, “thousand tiny lizards crawling all over my body, their wee nails pricking into my courage.”
How many times have I gone over that paragraph and yet, only this morning, did I begin to wonder if lizards really have nails? The question never entered my mind. Now I’m assuming they do, because it’s too late to do anything about it, but still...Do they?
I hope you enjoyed the pictures of Smiley, one of Buddy Lee’s abandoned friends who lives down the road, and of the Druid Meditation pond which lies on our property.