25 January, 2012

Bendable Ears

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There comes a time in every writer's life when his/her family and friends don't really want to hear anymore about the story.  That being understood, make the most of what time you have until that happens.

Writers need sounding boards.  Vocalizing is an important tool for organizing plot points, describing concepts, and testing where the readers/audience will want more information (and especially where they won't).

In order for these chats to be as effective as possible, listen.  Listen to yourself tell the story.  Listen to your family members and friends.  Not just for what they say, but also for the subtext behind what they say.

The first big alarm that should go off in your head occurs when you hear yourself actually get into story-telling mode after knocking around with backstory.  Don't write the backstory!  Start with where you started story telling and keep the backstory in mind, revealing the important bits as they become relevant.  (Had Tolkien done this, he could have spared us decades of waiting in the Shire, which Jackson astutely truncated.)

The first big alarm you get, whilst listening to aforementioned sounding board, happens when they switch from interjecting their oohs and aahs with casual references to your genius, and get involved with the world you're creating.  They will ask for more detail, speak of your characters as real people, and put pieces together before your very eyes.

Should your trusted listener begin offering suggestions on how to change your story, or slip into a writer mode all their own, that's a big (and valuable) hint that your story just isn't doing enough for them.  You've lost them and, if it keeps happening, spend more time developing your story.  The exception to this usually involves at least one person we all know who compulsively fixes things that aren't broken until they are.

This technique is especially helpful for people who say they have a hard time explaining their story.  That just means you need more practice.  The better you get at it, the more it will improve your writing style.

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