Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lather, rinse, repeat...

Life has been moving at breakneck speed and it's all I can do to keep up.  Since writing those two HUGE little words I'm struggling to keep up at home, working day and night shifts in the same 24-hour time period over the course of a week while covering other units (I'm a nurse manager), completing yearly evaluations for my entire staff, and reading multiple works from my beloved critique group friends.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I've found time to think about my own story, finally making some progress on that pesky chapter.  I kicked a few ideas around, sparked by that critique group I mentioned, and last night I finally poured the scene out of my imagination and onto my computer screen.

Now, the technique that made it possible is NOT a substitution for sitting in front of a keyboard or pad of paper and struggling through the tough times.  Lord knows I've had more than a few of those days.  But when it works, the result is a scene that jumps off the page and sucks the reader in.  At 4am, I sat back, scanned over the new addition to my manuscript and fell into a deeply content sleep.

It's sort of an immersion strategy, when it comes down to it.  I know I have a good idea if I can picture it in my mind.  Flashes of conversation are happening, people are moving around in the setting, acting and reacting to each other.  When this happens, I seize the moment (if at all possible), grab something to write with and close my eyes.  I sort out the launching point and then write it until I catch up with what I just watched in my mind's eye.  Once caught up, I close my eyes, sink back into the scene and let it play out a bit longer.  I write that and so on and so on.

I really put myself into the character's shoes - I see what Hannah sees.  I feel what she feels.  I imagine touching and tasting what she's touching and tasting.  How would she react?  What does she say next?  What does Marc say?  How does he react?  How do I want them to react to make the point I'm trying to make?  Sometimes they make it easy and play right into my hands.  Other times they are hell-bent on going off on their own tangent and the scene just won't go where I need it to go for the sake of the plot.  In those cases, I either throw it out and start over, or I've found that I may needed to tweak the plot to get it all to fit.  I wrote that plot before I really knew these characters.  Turns out, they're a lot different than I thought they would be.

It's a draining experience, and I usually need a nap or a good night's sleep afterward, but it's worth every word that's generated from the session.  I wrote Emil's death this way, and I was thrilled to find out that two of my critique group friends actually cried during that scene.  I did it!  I sucked them in and took their emotions where I wanted them to be with nothing but WORDS!!!

And that's what I love about reading and writing.  That simple words, if put together in the right pattern, can affect people - incite them to action, soothe their soul or take them on an emotional adventure simply for the sake of feeling.

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