Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Latest Methods


Official Word-o-Meter Day 4 Word Count: 6621 words



As readers of this blog may remember, I was, for a considerable portion of this current WIP, reduced to writing with a quill pen.

Yup. Dip. Scritch scritch scritch. Dip. Scritch, scritchscritch. etc.

Well, the quills are back in the art supplies now were they belong. That drawing in the top right corner was done with a quill. But writing with one? Let's just say, some things are obsolete for a reason...

These days, my method has changed a bit. So far, it's working for me. Finding out it worked 3000 words' worth was a surprise,but a happy one.

My newest method:

I keep a pen and paper with me and 'sketch' out scenes. Quick notes, in present tense to keep me from taking it too seriously and 'binding up' on word choice and language. Sometimes, I hear dialogue, or that telling detail of imagery swims right up. I jot 'em down. Otherwise, I just kind of loosely walk the characters through their conflicts and challenges.

Mostly, I do this at night. But I keep the tools with me, just in case. Yesterday, I sketched out a fine scene while the Tiny Dynamo shopped for shoes. I'd been thinking about it while we were at the supermarket. Basically, no scrap of time goes to waste.

When it's 'writing time', I sit down with the laptop in my, well, lap and my sketched notes in front of me. Now, I'm listening to imagery and language and what, exactly, is going on in the scene.

This: Kane up early. Not too rested after uncomfortable top bunk:
lights on & off
snoring, loud & wet
vomit smells
1 person sick again
He picks up some overpriced food & walks up into the hills.
Back of the mountain, hawks circle.

Becomes:

Kane was up with the dawn. Hostel dorm beds were the same the world over. Thin mattress and squeaking bedsprings, other backpackers turning lights on and off or stumbling drunken in the dark. Between the loud wet snoring and the faint smells of vomit from the bunk below him, Kane’s sleep was fitful.
Finally, he quit trying. Kane climbed down from his bunk, took his pack out of its locker and dressed in the dark. At a small market on Frankton Road, he paid too much for apples and cheese, nuts and french bread and a bottle of water. The mountain air was still watery and gray when Kane walked into the hills.

Midmorning, Kane stopped. He took his rest on a flat rock, warm in the sun and sheltered from the wind. The cheese was sharp and strong, the apples crisp and tart. Overhead, hawks circled, riding the thermals, hunting.

After a time, Kane moved deeper into the autumn forest. Leaves were turning all around him: yellow and gold and orange and brown and splashes of deep brilliant red. He hit a path and followed it. Bright leaves and dappled trunks gave way to stunted alpine scrub and harsh cold sunlight.

Faint scallops were visible in the grass. Deer, passing through. Past the ridgeline, the tracks descended into the forest shadows.

Kane felt at peace.


Now, careful readers might notice this scene breaks one of my own main rules: there's no conflict. Fair cop, guv. Guilty as charged. But I feel this scene is necessary for three reasons:

1. Pacing: We need a little rest between to high-tension plot points.

2. Characterization: Kane's a solitary man. One of the best quick and dirty shortcuts to charcterization is to put your character in a fitting environment and say 'he's like this place'.

3. Foreshadowing: I'm not sure how this story ends, but I do know that Kane needs to be comfortable outdoors, and a decent tracker, too.

And, this is the first draft. Before this thing is done, I may well have a scene that does all three of these things *and* throws in some conflict too!

4 comments:

cs harris said...

I sketch out scenes in present tense, too. I think it's because I'm mentally moving through them in real time.

Oh, and the half-dead stray cat's name is BC. Not very original--it's short for black cat. He's been a stray around my mother's house for years, before he decided to half kill himself in a desperate attempt to get a home. Worked.

Kate S said...

6621 by day 4 is pretty impressive, Steve - especially since you were late to the party. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Beautiful writing. I'm intrigued. I tend to talk scenes out to myself in present tense when I'm walking and plotting.

avery said...

Even without the conflict, it's a great start.

My scene development method involves a large table, index cards, sticky notes and a camera. I build an outline across the table and then take a photo of it with my digital camera so I don't have to be responsible for keeping the mess together indefinitely.