|Copyright 2006 by Sam Morrison blogspot.com/2007/12/free-cartoon-usage-great-for-blog.html|
by Paula Boire, writing as Sara L. Jameson
We all want to write compelling stories and wish-I-could-meet you characters. Maybe even ones we’d like to take home with us. But how to create them. . . .
After recently taking Margie Lawson’s month-long, online writing course, Writing Body Language Like a Psychologist, I discovered several things about my WIP. Disturbing things. Like eighty pages of emotions and body language and dialogue cues that often suffered from wimpy writing and repeated effects. Sometimes two or three times on the same page. Yikes!
This outstanding course teaches writers how to use a psychologist’s perspective to enhance characters’ emotional layers in ways that reveal inner psychology, ratchet the tension, and hook the reader viscerally. Thirty days of focusing solely on those factors in my manuscript was extremely revealing. Revealing in what wasn’t on the page (but I thought was there) and . . . ahem . . . those three emotional hits using lips in some way. All on the same page.
As a devoted left-brainer, (I know, I know, the right-brainers among us are probably freaking out by now) I decided to make a table of all body language, dialogue cue, emotional hits and my “favorite” power words (BL/DC/EH/FW table). The course and the table made me realize my search-and-find approach was not forcing me to dig super deep into my characters. And when analyzing and editing a chapter, weak writing wasn’t always apparent when viewed in context.
Seeing those sentences isolated in table format quickly reveals repetitions, their frequency, and equally critical: whether or not they are carrying their weight in the word count. He shrugged. He cocked a brow. She smiled. She grinned. Anticipation laced her words.
Yes, simplicity is essential at times. But do many of the hits illuminate character psychology, motivations, and subtext? Are multiple characters expressing emotions identically? Is that really the way that person would behave or have I gotten into a rut? Are sentences simply being used as beats?
With the hope of becoming a more efficient writer, I've decided to start the BL/DC/EH/FW table at the onset of a new manuscript, to eliminate the daunting task of compiling it afterwards.
As a devoted fan of writing a fast first draft, doing this may slow it down somewhat, but if it enables knowing my characters far more intimately before the editing process, and ultimately deepen readers’ involvement in the protagonist’s black moment, greatest dream, fear, and the big lie, etc., then it will be worth the effort.
With each manuscript I try to incorporate at least one new technique to push me to write a more polished first draft. Once an author is working under deadline, growing one’s craft and topping the quality of one’s last release becomes even more challenging. So a writer must become more efficient. More proficient. One way or another.
How do you deal with these issues? I’d love to learn new ideas from you.