Anybody who follows me on twitter or facebook knows I've had a bit of a bad couple of weeks. Some things were God-awful...like my son being hospitalized and my main computer dying (still haven't replaced that so I'm on a laptop that hates me). Other things were fun like my niece's wedding. Other things we just won't mention. :)
But I'm back. And my head is full of great ideas for blogs about writing...Like this one:
Don't shy away from your scene.
I read a lot of stuff: friends' manuscripts, published books, contest entries, books for quotes...and the one thing that always amazes me is the shied-away-from scene. It's the saddest thing I see when I critique or read for contests because the author doesn't realize she's missed a chance to wow us.
I read a book about a decade ago wherein this group of paranormal creatures was preparing for battle. Tough guys were bragging. More sensitive types were praying or saying goodbyes to loved ones. They were fighting for a cause and they had to go -- but it was difficult. The build up was fantastic.
Chapter ends. I turn the page. And this is a paraphrase of what I get...
After the battle, the survivors got back on their horses and surveyed the scene...
What? No battle? But, all those wonderful characters has scores to settle and enemies to face...what happened?
We don't know. The dead were named. The author told us they had fought valiantly, but we never saw the battle.
Now, I'm not a ghoul, but when something is led up to the way this battle was, I want to see the battle.
Similarly, right after I began writing, I read a book where chapter two started off with the heroine punching out of her car, scrambling up the walk, saying, "Don't you walk away from me after what you did to me in town!"
And I'm thinking, "Oh, what did he do to her in town?"
He spins around..."You deserved what I did!"
Really? What'd he do?
"I've never been so embarrassed."
I've never been so curious.
"I should slap you..."
Slap him? Really? What the heck did he do?
I went back to chapter 1 to see if I'd missed something. I hadn't. It took four pages of banter (which was not good btw if only because it was so vague) before one of the characters actually told us what had happened in town and it was cool. I thought...Gee, why didn't you show us that scene?
I had a guess. I guessed the author was a pantser who had started that second chapter with the punched-open door and could only follow up such a dramatic character movement with some dramatic dialogue. "Don't walk away from me after what you did to me in town." Then, after writing that, she needed to think of something the hero had done in town, and she did. She came up with something great -- without realizing that what she'd done was made the "reason" more interesting than the argument itself.
I've done that. Actually, it's very much a part of the creative process. We can't know everything about our books before we start. We also don't "get" our stories in chronological order. Sometimes we get the "sequel" argument before the scene. If that's the case, don't panic...just write the scene! Don't try to explain it in weird dialogue that will leave the readers feel she's missing something.
But the battle? Why wouldn't an author show us a battle? Especially, a battle she'd built to? Frankly, I think the author believed her aftermath scene more important than the actual battle.
Or maybe she didn't know how to write a fight scene?
Or maybe there were so many characters involved that the scene itself would have been huge or overwhelming?
Or maybe she was squeamish about writing about blood and gore?
No matter what the reason that's not my problem as a reader.
However, when I, as a reader, get annoyed because I feel like I was left out, it IS the author's problem.
You can't be afraid of scenes. You can't be afraid of the emotions that need to be on the page, or the details needed to create a scene that's true to life.
If you're writing erotica you need to know how to write fantastic, detailed sex. If you're writing a paranormal about battling tribes of unicorns you need to know how to write about battles (and unicorns). If you're writing a romance you need to show us the steps of the characters falling in love, not skip one because you're not sure how to write it.
If I told you what I was working on right now, you would laugh yourself silly, but it's a project that interests me ... Actually, it intrigues me. Because it's suspense, not romance, I am back to the books, learning how to craft certain types of scenes. I'm researching, getting my facts straight...not figuring out how to work 'around' things that make me uncomfortable...but studying. So that when I actually write this book, I can go where the story leads me...not fake it. Not dance around the blood and guts and gore. Not use transitions that give facts but shortchange readers of the adventure.
Because in the final analysis, all books are an adventure. Falling in love is as much of an adventure for romance readers as saving the world is for thriller readers or investigating for mystery readers.
If you fake, pretend, work around, transition your way through the book, you cheat your readers but you also cheat yourself out of some of the most fun parts of writing a book.
So do the background work, albeit research or craft study, and both you and your reader will love your book. :)
And glad to be back, by the way! LOL