Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When in doubt, just write.

It is funny that we occasionally need to be reminded of some of the basic tenets of writing.

I found myself over the weekend at a point in “the project” where I knew what was to take place in the present action, but I needed to inform the reader about things from the character’s past that has put him in the current position and made him who he is in the present action. The trouble was that I couldn’t think of one specific event I could use, something that he might remember that would really explain things. I thought I was blocked.

I had the first sentence of the scene written but was afraid to put anything else down until I knew where I was going, So, I put myself through a free-writing exercise, putting down on paper some of the things I had been keeping in my head about him. What I wound up with was only more generalities, no specifics. I had the concepts for what changed him, but still nothing concrete I could use.

I decided to go on with the present action. If I needed to come in and put in another scene later, I would. What I found, though, (and here’s where we get back to basics) was that the thing wrote itself. I didn’t need to say “okay, I need to throw in this specific scene where his father ignores him,” or some such thing. Instead, many little mini-scenes appeared, little bits of action or images along with the character’s opinions of the past. This told more about what he’d been through and where he was than any contrived scene would have.

And so I’m reminded of a couple things that even the silliest of writing books tell us. First, contrivance is what it is and will appear as much on the page, and it is right to be reluctant to do it. And of course, just write. Keep at it. Have faith that you’ll sort out what needs it, either through the course of writing or during the writing. A familiar pearl of wisdom, I understand, but sometimes we need to be reminded.

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