Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three Observations On How to Add Punch In Your Writing

Okay, first, as writers, we (at least most of us) know we need to flavor our writing with sensations that go beyond sight and sound. We add things like the aroma of chicken grilling, the smell of tangy perfume, the feel of a too-heavy gold chain dragging against the back of a neck, the feel of a chilled breeze ticking up one's back beneath a jacket or the really sour taste of overdone lemonade to add life to our writing. You know, stuff everyone experiences, maybe notices.

But, when writers are reaching for more, and it's true, editors just love more than the five senses we're used to providing, consider body language. Remember, all the extras we add as subtle touches in storytelling don't just add to the setting, but fleshes out your characters as well.

Body language is a great resource for writers and you never hear anyone commenting on it. It just is if the writer injects it smoothly.

How about a character sneaking a smoke where it's forbidden. Cupping his hand over the cigarette, whether he telegraphs he knows he's breaking the rules and is embarrassed, avoiding eye contact, or if he's arrogant and defiant, staring down those who notice him smoking, it telegraphs how the character feels, tells the reader something about his inner workings. Take some of your research time and read up a bit on body language. Then apply.Your writing will take an expansive breath.

Another thing to consider when adding depth to your story is people. You know, the characters you're writing about. We people are a strange lot. Our behavior is rational only some of the time. When you think about it, how often have you taken stupid risks or done something you're at a total loss to explain? 

You've probably heard "truth is stranger than fiction". Well, it is. You, I, all of us do strangely unpredictable things at one time or another with no rational explanation. That's a bit at odds with convincing your reader to go along with the suspension of disbelief thing. So the other side of that coin is believability. It's a high-wire act. You don't want to be cranking out boring fiction, focused on absolute rational behavior at all times.You don't want to lose your reader.

So here's the thing. The weird behavior patterns of us human beings (great fodder for writers and fun to read about) are actually just that - patterns. Others of our species can relate to or understand much of our strange and irrational behavior - heck, they've done it too!

I mean there's love, sex, obsession, weird habits. Love and sex are always basis for irrational behavior. Weird habits like never showing up on time or being obsessively punctual can easily serve as fodder or unsettling decisions, irrational anger or a host of other reactions. The obsessed can become single-minded which can lead to absolutely horrible judgment. Control freaks can have fatal consequences. You get it, more grist for the writer's mill.

Plainly, characters afflicted with human weirdness must either find redemption or with grit teeth cling to their habits to the very end. The oddity of a character's behavior is not only fascinating in your story, but it grips the reader, making him or her wonder what's coming next, why that character is reacting that way and if they'd do the same.

Inject the weirdness of human behavior into your storytelling and create sparks. It applies to all writing.

And readers, tell me if I'm wrong, but aren't you more interested, more transfixed by a character with some behavior, some quirk, that can lead to disaster or salvation? Consider stories and gripping characters you've known and get back to me on that.

And there's the third and last point I'm going to  make today. I mentioned it in another blog post and it bears repeating. You can't write delicately. You can't put restraints on your writing so you don't offend someone. Write what moves you. Don't avoid a topic because it's a darker one like incest, racism, occult or whatever you find to be the dark side. And don't put self-imposed restraints on the way you write. Let it all go. Write with abandon, feel what you did when you were a kid; the freedom of attacking almost everything with abandon.

Turn yourself loose, your readers will thank you - won't you readers?

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