Writing is about reaching into our emotional selves and being honest; ‘getting naked,’ if you will. But so many of us have integrated the ‘stiff upper lip’ lessons of the world a bit too well to get naked easily.
Hey, I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m one of those. I need tools to help me get intimate with what I’m writing.
Prescriptions I’ve used for getting naked with a scene:*
- Senses: What are the smells, textures. Allow these to help you put yourself in your character’s shoes.
- Think visual: Write about what the room looks like. Even better, look for images that communicate the feeling you are trying to create.
- Find auditory inspiration: Think of a song that has the feel you want to create for the scene you are writing. Put it on and dance around the room or moan with the music. Consider the lyrics.
- Make your characters uncomfortable: Suffering from cramps, sneezing, stomach upset, headache. When irritable we either hide or show emotions more. Allow a character to take out their pain on the world around them, or hide it and close up like a clam.
- Use metaphor: Consider what the scene is metaphorically about. Is it about a couple breaking up? Perhaps something physical breaks, too. Are the character hiding things from each other? Maybe the lights go out or the room is dark.
- Write differently: For your first draft, try writing in long hand and not on a computer. This will allow you to throw ideas out more casually. You can doodle. You can arrange words visually on the page – one character’s words in one corner, another character’s in another.
- 2″ picture frame: Take Anne Lammott’s advice. That is, you don’t have to write the whole thing in one go. All you need to concentrate on when you’re writing is the next 2 sentences. That is, a 2″ picture frame. One meaningful moment.
- Shitty first drafts: What you write down the first time is not final. This is another Anne Lammott lesson: write a shitty first draft remembering that you’re going to come back. Great advice to follow, because editing is easier (and more fun) than writing a first draft. You can feel freer knowing that you’re coming back.
Scratch and peck at what you write down until you find the kernel that feels right. You’ll feel a ping. You’ll see it and know it’s absolutely right. When you get there, hold onto it tight and run.
* I call writing chunks scenes. They may be in a book, in a play, in a screenplay, but I still call them scenes. How do you know when a scene starts and ends? You just do. It’s the beat of the thing, right?