Thursday, September 17, 2009

Writing With a Tease

Ah, yes, it's that kind of day here - unusual in the Southwest. We have storm clouds over the mountains and rain just sort of hanging in that dark sky. It wants to rain Sooooo bad, but it hangs there in the air, moist, rich, full of promise, and yet a tease. Will it rain, will water actually fall from the skies? Beats me. It does spit occasionally.

And that's how my writing, and yours, should be. A promise, holding back, a tease. After we all kill the adverbs and cull the adjectives what's left should be solid story, gripping, inviting the reader in, but coquettish, a tease. Dialog needs to be crisp and true to each character. A farmer doesn't speak the way a lawyer does, a southern gentleman doesn't speak the same way as a New Yorker. Create your dialog the way these people speak but remember, a little goes a long way. Don't write with hundreds of shortened words, accent marks and drawn out 'ooooooo-s'. Read a favorite book and really focus in on the dialog, how did that writer get the differences across?

Description? That's another writer's problem. Adjectives - which should be a writer's friend are too often not. Frequently they're simply scattered all over the page like a crowd gone wild. Sometimes I wonder if a writer is simply attempting to up a word count.

Be selective and minimalist. And avoid alliteration unless you're really doing it on purpose.

Don't be guilty of throwing adjectives at your readers in pairs, triplets, or even worse. If your creative writing teacher or coach encouraged the use of many adjectives, well, forget it. It doesn't have to be a "frigid morning in the early fall", it can simply be a "crisp fall morning". A "rutted dirt road" doesn't have to be the "long, winding, dusty, bumpy, dirt road." Think about the writing. What makes it have power? What grabs the readers' attention and holds it? Think of the extra descriptions in your writing as spices in the soup. If anything overwhelms the soup you've used too much of it.

Meanwhile I'll contemplate my dark and overcast sky and see what I can come up with.

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