In her book Thinking About Memoir, Abigail Thomas reminds us: “Details. Specifics. Eliminate all abstract nouns.” Of course, this rule holds true for writing fiction as much as memoir. Whatever you write, use specific details to craft a full, believable world.
Tagged: wyatt bessing
“…the bearded merchants in furred robes conversing quietly as they picked their way along the slimy stones above the water, the fishermen unloading their catch, coopers pounding and shipmakers hammering and clamsellers singing and shipmasters bellowing, and beyond all the silent, shining bay.”
There are multiple kinds of truth, in fiction as in life. As fiction writers, we move as close to the truth as possible without ever quite veering into truth entirely (otherwise we’d be writing nonfiction). One kind of truth emanates from a realism of scene and detail. By identifying with familiar settings and character traits, readers are pulled into a story and become personally attached to it.
Some writers enjoy the process of rereading and combing through each word, looking for ways to strengthen sentences, remove extraneous detail, sharpen plot and develop characters. But for many it’s pure torture. Editing can feel like it lacks the punch and excitement of the initial writing, too analytical and uncreative.
Did you ever play Truth or Dare when you were young? It was probably thrilling, testing boundaries and building trust among your friends. As you said and did wilder and wilder things, your relationships grew stronger and the world opened up to new possibilities. Yet we grow out of Truth or Dare eventually, finding the dares childish, the truths too painful to admit. We learn to guard ourselves too deeply, developing layers of protection.
My wife sometimes accuses me of going to extremes. In the car, the heater is either on full blast or the AC is icy. I can be a bouncing Tigger one minute, a solemn and quiet Eeyore the next. When writing I’m the same way, methodical and slow in outlining, then writing with abandon, not stopping or thinking or even coming up to breathe.
As a relief from my freeway commute in the mornings, I’ll sometimes get off and head west toward the Pacific coastal range, past ranches and pastures, over rolling hills and through redwood groves.
I dedicate this month’s column to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who passed away this month at the age of 87. The master and popularizer of a narrative mode called magical realism, Marquez artfully blends the fantastic and the real into a tapestry from which both fantasy and reality are inextricable.
Good writing is always honest, whether it’s telling the truth about life, about the world, or about deeply held personal emotions.
I find that if I’m too relaxed in my chair, slouching or sinking down, I automatically enter a relaxed state of mind, a kind of fuzziness that might momentarily aid the flexibility of my thoughts, but soon becomes a detriment to focus.
In fiction, inanimate objects are seldom truly inanimate.
The prizes and camaraderie no doubt played a part in creating such a successful experience, but their goals – just within reach but quite challenging – and the fact that we held them accountable to those goals, were the most crucial parts of creating that change.
Remember: Don’t recount every moment of your characters’ lives. As a writer, your job is to present the crucial moments that develop plot and enhance character. Each scene is driven by a character’s desire to attain something,