Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WiP Wednesday: Romancing the Reader

We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to our writing.

I'm weaker with character development and dialogue than I am with setting description and plot twists. I know what I need to work on, but sometimes knowing feels like it's only like a sixteenth of the battle. Maybe less.

Here's the eternal question: How do we get the story in our heads to match up with the story on the page?

It turns out I've had to do a lot of scene by scene work, determining exactly what's happening in each scene. I'm realizing that I'm sacrificing characterization for the sake of plot and word count in many places, and that ain't good.

Who cares what happens in my story if my characters aren't alive? Well, you know, alive in the mind of the reader and all that jazz. So I've been trying to analyze what I enjoy about the characters in the books I've been reading recently.

Alexia Tarabotti from Carriger's Soulless didn't have to do much to earn my sympathy--sure, she had to kill a vampire, keeping her wits about her, but it was the fact that she'd escaped the confines of a stuffy party in search of a dessert cart that really won me over. The more I learned about her (not only is she lacking a soul, a secret she can keep from her family, but not supernatural creatures, she's also suffering from the unfortunate malady of being half-Italian ;D) the more I wanted her to get exactly what she wanted--even if she didn't know she wanted it yet.

It's all well and good to analyze, but putting this characterization into practice is much more difficult for me. One writing book I read (which one? really they're all a blur at this point) said that nearly every line of your manuscript should be pulling double, or even triple, duty.

For example: Dialogue should enhance character development as well as advance the plot. Narrative in a first person pov should do the same.

During my next round of revisions, I'm going to be ruthless with my writing. I'll have to make sure every line is pulling it's weight, or if there's a different way to say the same thing that will add to another aspect of the story, adding realism and affecting the reader in an emotional way.

Difficult as it is to read my own work as if I don't know the story, I'm trying to see it with fresh eyes this time around. Hopefully, I'll be able to add an extra dimension of detail and emotion to the story that was lacking before!

How do y'all tackle characterization? Does it come naturally, or is it like dragging a basketball-sized lead weight through a swamp in the dark with no shoes on? Cause that's how it feels for me sometimes. ;)


Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

You and I should get together and write the perfect book. My crit buddies have told me my strengths are my characters and dialogue. But I struggle with setting descriptions and weaving intricate plots. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, that would be awesome, Roni, except that my ego would get in the way. ;)

Maybe I should just read more of your writing!

Abby Annis said...

Platinum! I'm telling you... ;)

I think I do pretty well with characterization. At least better than I used to. I've tried all sorts of things to improve my understanding of my characters. Those dreadful interviews. Ugh. I don't even like filling those out for myself. Journaling from the character's POV. Never lasts very long. I always want to get back to the story.

The thing that works best for me is just writing--scenes that usually don't end up in the finished product but help me understand how a character would react in a situation. The key is go in with no preconceived ideas about how the scene should go. Just present a conflict--story-related or otherwise--and let the characters take over.

Dang, Tere. I think you gave me another post idea. :) I hope my thoughts help.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

" dragging a basketball-sized lead weight through a swamp in the dark with no shoes on" Yep! that says it all, girl. :-)

Voidwalker said...

Forget the soul... how can one live as a half-Italian!? Oh the shame! :P

Julie Dao said...

I have trouble with characterization too. It's a toughie, isn't it? I think I just write whatever character comes into my head and they evolve (seemingly by themselves), and then fix afterward. My strengths also lie in description and plot weaving.

L.T. Elliot said...

Sometimes, it's all so bloody complicated. (as you can see, i'm working on characterization too.)

Lisa and Laura said...

We make lists--and then we attach pictures. We try to give characters quirks and associate them with people we actually know (or think we know from TV and the movies). It helps to put a name with a face--we obviously change a bunch of things as we go, but it helps to have a jumping off point.