Can you picture it?

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Yes. But, can you hear it, touch it, taste it and smell it…?

It’s one of the biggest difficulties I’ve found in learning to write a book: slowing myself down in sharing the story, so that the reader can really come into the scene and be a part of everything that’s happening. We’re always being told to ‘show,  not tell’, aren’t we?

Even now I find it tricky to get this right. No one in the real world goes into every new room and smells it, touches and looks at every tiny detail – if they did, they wouldn’t venture very far in life! A lot of these things happen automatically and unconsciously – you wouldn’t want your characters to behave unrealistically and wander through every scene like Sherlock Holmes (well, unless they are a Sherlock Holmes-esque character I suppose). But, at the same time, there has to be depth, texture and realism in the worlds you build inside your books – otherwise they are a very empty place for your characters to exist.

In general, I tend to find that when I’m writing, I see the scenes like moments in a movie: I get the dialogue and the action sequences, the overall arch of the story and then I fill in the rest. Sometimes, I naturally must be working through a scene more slowly the first time I write, as the character will pick up some of these sensory textures and I don’t even remember writing them. Other times, when I’m doing a final edit, I’ll find myself with the questions on a jotter next to me, to remind myself: what does it smell like, what does the food taste like, how do things feel against the skin of my characters?

It doesn’t have to be every paragraph or even every page I don’t think, just a dash here, some detail there. A little like the camera zooming into close up on my scene for a few seconds, before expanding to a wider shot where the main action happens. I suppose I think of these elements like seasoning: some passages need strong flavours – lots of herbs and spices – to bring it to life; others need very little because the dialogue and action gives you everything you need. Over seasoning your writing would be as bad as it being too bland.

If you’re looking for more tips on ways to ‘season’ your writing, there’s a couple of good articles here for you to delve into:

Use All Five Senses to Enrich Your Writing

The Write Practice – Unlocking Your Senses

 

 

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5 Comments

Filed under Author Stuff, Writing - General

5 responses to “Can you picture it?

  1. That’s exactly how I see scenes, as if I’m watching a movie, and I’m often guilty of racing through them as I’m eager to see where it’s going or frustrated from being held back. The problem I have filling in missing descriptions during edits is the whole “Kill your darlings” approach. It’s a balancing act between trimming the fat and ensuring there’s substance.

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