Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tell it as story or scene

In the novel I'm writing, I needed to include information about the death of the main character's mother. At first I included it in a transition piece (where time had passed and this was one of the things that had happened). So I created a 3-line "story" and cleverly connected it to the fact that the protagonist's child looked like the mother and the complications of that resemblance. And I was quite pleased with how it turned out.

But the event wouldn't go away. It kept returning in my consciousness, nagging at me for attention. The event itself and its circumstances weren't changing but I knew I had to make a bigger deal of Lola finding out and really put her in her reactions. I didn't analyze this. I just let it keep percolating and then it led me to a different beginning for the chapter, one that was more original and helped me show more things than just a few lines of telling it would have. I found a way to work in the scene of her learning and how she deals with it and what it says about her ability in relationships.

And then this afternoon, as I sat down to write this blog, a whole other importance fell into place and it was such a "Duh!" moment. This book centers on the difficulty of mothers and daughters. No wonder my psyche was nagging at me to make this piece a bigger deal. Glad I listened.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reading your work aloud

I have the great luxury of a hairdresser who comes to my house. Midway through the process, Cindy and I have tea and chat or I read to her from the book I'm working on. Today I read a section of dialog that I wrote about a month ago. And as I was reading it to her, I realized three things. That the dialog was pretty good (feasible, natural, well paced). Second, it goes on too long and that's because of number 3. I don't have a good enough reason for it.

I wanted this dialog to show a conflict between the roommates in the flat and I wanted to make the protagonist defend her shady boyfriend. And I realized in reading it aloud that while those two things happened, I took too long to do it. So I either need to find another plot or character point to include in that dialog or cut it short.

I don't think I would have discovered this in a silent reading of the text. However, I now realize I might have skipped over some of it in a silent read. And if the author doesn't find it interesting, yikes! How will the reader? So I pegged that for reworking.

So two bits of advice: Read your work aloud to a trusted friend and listen for your own impatience. Second, watch for places you're tempted to bypass in a silent reading. Maybe they can be shortened or eliminated all together.