Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Continuing My Education

I have always been an avid reader. "Nose in a book" could have been my middle name. When the itch to write needed scratching, I thought a love of reading equalled the ability to write. It didn't take long to discover I had a lot to learn.

Fortunately I also like to take classes. I'd take them in person, but I don't live near a city or community college. I can't find a romance  critique partner I to meet in town for coffee. So online classes are a godsend. Through them I have learned about POV, characterization, plot development, and power-loading sentences.

I am taking an interesting class right now: food writing for historical novelists.  We just had our first homework assignment-- a first-hand account of a real-time food experience. I wrote 512 words about cooking and eating fried eggs and toast.  I had to compose details that showed:  Taste. Touch. Sound. Sight. Scent.

The next assignments will be trickier: incorporating them into my story in a way that "creates an important pause in the emotional arc."

Interesting things happen to me in the shower-- it's where I often get ah ha solutions to what happens next. So, to compose sensory details of taking a shower, I could describe how the water feels--its temperature, the spray, is it slippery soft or hard. The shower stall--walls smooth, shiny hard. How the water tastes; the shampoo tastes--and smells. How it looks and sounds on the shower curtain or door before we enter. Once we are inside, how the water and shampoo bubbles run off my body and down the walls, down the drain. The scent of the soap. The texture of a washrag. The squeakiness of my hair after it is fully rinsed.

Once I have these options, I would pick ones that mesh with the emotions of the scene. Is the heroine distraught over a lost love--the spray could feel like knife cuts.

Or an essential memory. What if my character as a young child was scrubbed harshly by a mother whose husband had just smacked her around?  What if she remembers playing happily with her younger brother in a tub--and now she'd just learned he drowned?  What if she is in the shower with her lover and he slips on the soap--something she has always feared could happen.

I am still learning to write deep POV, but it is becoming easier to  write evocative details. I can see that I can't just list five or six descriptions and create a mood in my setting. I need to use a few sensory details that link directly to the emotion in the scene.

More good stuff to learn.


Josie said...

I like the idea of a memory driving the character. Very thoughtful post and thanks for sharing.

morgan said...

I like examples. Cliches are meaningless. Reali life examples are so helpful for drawing in the reader. Thanks for reminding us.