Re: Describing peoples
- From: "Patricia C. Wrede" <pwrede6492@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 10:05:31 -0600
"Catja Pafort" <usenet@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
Patricia C. Wrede wrote:
Take a closer look. The odd details add up to quite a clear picture --
the first page of chapter 1, of the lake, the muddy shore, and the grass
beyond, with the boys slinking off; later (in my copy, it's around page 4
that it switches from dialog to internal stream-of-consciousness), of the
"dark recessess of Ruatha's many levels" and its "dark, stuffy
and of the old stables with their vaulted ceilings and specially-designed
doors. Telling details.
Undoubtedly iit can be done, but this is one of the series I read over
and over during my formative years - around the time I started writing,
that is - so I'm not suprised that it stuck in my subconscious. It
obviously can be done, but I didn't do it well enough to make up for the
I think it's still a vision problem. You've already said that you have
trouble observing stuff in real life and writing it down; I think you have a
similar difficulty in prose. You look at an extremely filtered narrative
like the McCaffrey books, and you see the filtering; the concrete details
are there, but you're not conscious of them. So when you go to write your
*own* stuff, you do the filtering, but you *don't put in* the concrete
details...and then you compare the two and to you, they look as if you're
both doing the same thing, so why doesn't yours work? But it's *not* the
same thing. Not quite.
And the more this discussion goes on, the more I'm convinced that you're
absolutely on the right track for fixing it, painful as the early stages may
be. Because, again, you've said that now you look back at the first draft
of the quadrology, and you *see* things wrong that you didn't see before.
And being able to see things is a necessary prerequisite for being able to
fix them consistently.
Um. It occurs to me that it might possibly help to use Rosemary's
color-coding technique -- take the first two pages of two of your favorites
(you've mentioned Lackey's "Mage Storm" books, and now McCaffrey's Pern
series -- one each should do fine) and copy them -- retype or photocopy (or
use the actual books, if you don't mind marking up your copies), and then
take some highlighters in different colors and mark all the concrete nouns.
Then do the same with the first two pages of something you've done. I bet
you'll see a clear difference in frequency and position and so on.
Writers can do this when they know what things look like outside their
characters' heads. If you don't know that when you do your draft, you're
going to have to put in the blocks of description *for yourself*, so that
*you* know what things look like. Once you have that, you can figure out
what to take out again, if you want to get back to something minimalist.
It's kind of all-round-the-barn, but eventually, you probably won't need
I think it all comes back to the fact that I'm writing too quickly,
charging through the _story_. I've already found out that I need to step
through events more carefully - what _exactly_ happens, step by step,
action by action, and I think I need to act 'look around what the
characters experience' to that step.
Um. I don't think it's quite that simple. Because the problem isn't so
much with the story as with the way you tell it. It's a common problem...in
the other direction. Meaning, all the eager young writers who start by
describing all the action, with no internalization whatever ("And then they
killed an ogre! and after that there was a bandit attack, and the secondary
character was seriously wounded, and they had to make camp, and the bandits
came back in the night and captured everybody! And then...") I think it
would be perfectly possible -- for some other writer, anyway -- to take the
exact same story that you have and "charge through it" doing *nothing but*
dialog and descriptions of physical actions and objects. It'd read very
differently, and some folks might not consider it "the same story," but the
events and their ramifications would be exactly the same. It's just a
matter of viewpoint.
Of course, it may not make any difference to you (and to your process)
whether you think of what you're doing as "charging through the story" or
whether you think of it as "defaulting to internalization for the first
draft" or whatever.
I think I might go back to Arbet's crowd and do some heavy description.
Sounds like a plan to me.
Patricia C. Wrede
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