Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm back

Anybody who follows me on twitter or facebook knows I've had a bit of a bad couple of weeks. Some things were 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. :)

Happy Monday...

And glad to be back, by the way! LOL

susan meier


Cathy Shouse said...

113 Sorry about your bad week but you came back in fine fashion. This is an excellent post. Thanks!

PS, your thingy to prove I'm not a robot is way too challenging this Monday morning. Not a good sign. Sigh. I'm on the third try.

Susan said...

Cathy, sorry about the robot thing. I have trouble managing those myself! I think I need new glasses!

Glad you liked the post. It feels good to be back to normal again.


Janet Pepsin said...

Welcome back, Susan! Here's hoping all the craziness is over! You are so right about leaving out scenes. Nothing is more frustrating when you are on a roll reading a book, and you suddenly have to backtrack, flip back, find the reference, and generally drive yourself crazy trying to piece things together. I'm putting a sticky note above my desk that says "Be brave!" to remind me of this post. Thanks!

Susan said...

Janet...That's it exactly! Be brave!

Lots of writers are introverts. One of the reasons we love to write is that we can do things in our books we wouldn't do in real life. LOL!

So do the research, the homework, whatever, so you can be the person on paper you can't in real life. :)


Sharon said...

Welcome back, Susan! And hope things are looking up on all fronts! This is a great post...sometimes it really is tempting to skip a scene and see it in reference only when you just don't know how to approach it. But I hate it as a reader and try really hard not to do it as a writer...even if it means I walk away from the ms for a period of time until I can work it all out in my mind. Do you think this is more of a problem for pantsers than plotters? Hoping to see you in Oct in Bloomsburg!

Susan said...

Hey, Sharon!

I'm looking forward to Bloomsburg too. It should be fun.

I'm not sure if it's more of a plotter or pantser problem. Unexpected things can crops up in anybody's scene. LOL

I started a new book today... proposal which means I have to write a synopsis and I found myself watching to make sure I don't do this myself. :)


Julia Broadbooks said...

Glad you're back! I'd missed the thing about your computer. Here's hoping all of that is behind you.

You've convinced me. I need to add in a scene that I skipped because a reader said the book doesn't need it. But it does. I know it does because I keep thinking of it. I should listen to that voice more.

Susan said...

Ah, the inner voice!

That's our lifeblood.

I believe the thing that separates really good writers from the great writers is not just the inner voice, but the ability to listen to the inner voice. LOL

Nice to see you here, Julia!


mj compton said...

Glad you're back. I've been a lurker here since January or so, and have really missed my Monday writing tips!
I recently read a book by a Famous Male Author who did exactly the thing your lesson teaches not to do. I felt cheated. Robbed.