Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Trouble with Writing...

The trouble with writing is that we think it should be easier than it is. How many of you have read a good book and thought, I could have written that, or even, I cold have written that better?

When you do finally sit down to write the great American novel, you find it's not quite so easy. Here's my theory on why. Writing a novel is much more complex than just enumerating a series of events that happen to a group of people. The writing of the events is only one small part. As a writer, you are also in charge of:

1. Scenery. Your words have to not only set the mood, but create the whole scene design, backdrop, ambiance, etc., for each scene. And, you have to make the reader think it's not a set, but that they are really there. To top it off, you must do this seamlessly in order to not break the mood.

2. Characterization. You must not only convey the inner workings of your characters, you must include hair, makeup and costumes as well. Unfortunately, you don't have the luxury of showing the reader pictures of your characters; however, your readers will insist on vivid characters. They must have makeup and costumes appropriate for every scene without the benefit of a makeup artist or costume designer. It's up to you to describe what is important without it being obvious. Not an easy task.

3. Sound. Without making a peep and without the help of a sound technician, you must convince your reader that he hears the KABOOM of the mailbox that has exploded while your main character reaches toward it or the creak of a back door as it opens in the middle of the night. And without the help of a full orchestra, you must build the tension in your scenes so the reader is gripping the book tighter and tighter with each word you write.

4. Dialogue. Another component of your novel is what your characters say and how they say it. You not only have to put the words down, but you need to give each character an individual voice. This voice, which your readers will only hear through your written words, gives your characters their personalities. That's a tall order.

These are a few of the tasks of a writer. I don't make this list to discourage writers. No, I present this to encourage writers. Always remember your task is much more complex than listing a series of events. When writing, take the time to ensure you address these components (scenery, characterization, sound and dialogue) and you will make strides in blending these complexities into rich, effective text.

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