For a long while, I haven’t written anything about my writing here. I’ve been tied up in knots, some of my own making, some from not doing a good job of sorting out the helpful feedback from the not helpful kind. I keep saying I’m going to put together a praise/encouragement file for times like these, but the thing is most times when I’m tied in knots, I don’t realize what I’m doing to myself until I start coming out of it. Usually, sooner or later, I blunder into something that gets through the fog and I start to clear it out.
This time it was:
A post by Gwenda Bond: Fast Vs. Slow (I admit, I was panicking about how I can be such a slow writer and why was I even working on this project that I had started in 2008 and put away and taken out again).
But most importantly, this post Finding Your Voice and its writing exercise, which I found via DaphneUn when she mentioned Doycet. Yes, give me logic and analysis! I’m so tired of the “you know it when you see it” mantra. (However true it might be, it’s not helpful!)
The post includes a writing prompt and exercise. If you are at all interested in doing it you should go over there now before I spoil it for you. Really. It’s one of those exercises. You only get one chance at it. Ok?
Here’s what I wrote in response to the prompt:
New Year’s in Chile is in the summer. For a northerner—as in Northern Hemisphere—like me, it’s disorienting, but in a good way. It’s easy to walk around, from bar to bar, in the historic Bella Vista barrio, once home to artists and manual laborers and disenfranchised poets, but now increasingly bourgeois.
I had just pushed into a bar with strobing red and blue lights when there was a general scramble away from the dance floor that left me stranded. Sometimes I’m too contrary for my own good.
A guy sprawled in the middle. He was obviously dead; I was close enough to see that the knife stuck in his chest wasn’t pulsing with the beat of his heart. Never mind why or how I know about that. I did the decent thing and checked his pulse anyway and closed his eyes. By that time the lights were the white florescent kind. I don’t know if the manager—green under their bluish glare—or the dead guy—dead, ditto—looked worse.
I wrote this and thought, I do have a voice! Why am I letting myself be “corrected” out of it?! Jeez and hallelujah.
My answers to the questions after the prompt:
I never manage to follow “the rules”
Strong narrative preference
Preference for character over plot
A little bit elliptical (ok, a lot elliptical and probably too subtle). I always seem to come at things sideways: geography, poets, bourgeoisie, settings). It seems to be hardwired into my writing DNA; that’s ok, but how can I be elliptical and not lose my readers?
Character super important
Weak on conflict, or something I can’t quite put my finger on. Again, coming to the conflict sideways. Indirect conflict. Offstage conflict? (Not sure if this goes to voice or rather an aspect of writing I need to work on)
I LOVE long sentences. But I also love sentence fragments.
Unhealthy addiction to en dashes I blame entirely on an old boss
Setting/place is a character to me
Some descriptions are specific (red and blue strobing lights) but others could use much more specificity (bar, guy, knife, manager), in general, but also depending on which are important
This was all automatic. Very little of what I wrote here was conscious choice after deciding there was no way in hell I could follow the directions on all parts of the writing prompt. (I was sitting in my still-new living room and I did not want to envision a murder there.) What the hell does it mean that everything else was automatic and coming up directly from my subconscious?
More thoughts from comparing with other writing:
Good at analogies/metaphors that are appropriate for the character
Either 1st or 3rd person, but always very tight
Something that might be missing from the project I’m working on: a kind of gallows humor. A little morbid, maybe slightly explicit (is slightly explicit an oxymoron)?
Ok, your turn. Thoughts? Did you do the writing prompt? What was your experience?
*The title comes out of one of the twitter conversations I had with Zoe Marriott. She suggested embroidering it on a pillow, which in a sense I have now done, sans embroidery and pillow.
- I’m a (Re)Writer (katyupperman.com)