Personal Skill Set   4 comments

What part of writing are you best at? Not compared to everyone else, but compared to you?

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That’s Good

I have no idea how I compare to other writers in any part of the writer skillset, so this is easier to write when I don’t have to make that comparison.

The Two Ds

I think I excel at dialogue and description. Certainly, those are the two parts of the writing process I enjoy the most, which might be why I’m good at them.

Dialogue comes easy because my characters tell me their story and I’m allowed to listen to their conversations. Sometimes they engage in too much jawing and I need to edit down their chatter, but that’s not such a bad thing because, in the draft phase, more is better than less. I can always prune it, but if I can’t get my characters to talk to one another, I don’t really have a novel. Some scenes only have dialogue and dialogue tags when I write the draft. Since I try to eliminate dialogue tags when I can, I start in the second draft to replace them with description or the inner thoughts of the character. So in a very real way, dialogue and description walk hand in hand in my writing process.

Description is a little different because my characters don’t appear to care about their surroundings. Infidels! So I have to build a world around them that fits who they are. This usually happens during the second draft. Sometimes the scenes just pop into my head and other times I need to ask the world-brain to show me photos that evoke certain scenes. The other day I wrote a description of Lily’s bedroom in Book 3 of What If Wasn’t — “Pocketful of Rocks.” What would a teenaged girl’s bedroom look like in today’s world? I wouldn’t know. My daughter (now 29, but her stuff still lives at our house) is an artist, so her bedroom is painted dark red and embellished with weird art. One wall is dominated by a Bri-painted tree that used to have constantly changing leaves that were themselves smaller and removable art projects. Assuming Lily isn’t Bri, I had to ask Google what’s trending in girls’ bedrooms these days. I found a room I thought matched Lily’s personality and I described it. Then I scaled it back a bit because it was Ben doing the description. Guys don’t see colors the same as girls and don’t usually care about decorating, so I needed to be careful not to turn Ben into a girl. Ben is studying to be an engineer, so I actually showed the photo to an engineer coworker (I work for a road design agency) and asked him to describe it. I pretty much nailed Ben, although I decided to ignore the observation that the roof above that bedroom might have been leaking. Engineers, they’re so mechanical!

“Pocketful of Rocks” should be out sometime this spring – tentatively April. maybe May.

I wonder what my fellow authors have chosen as their primary skill.

Posted January 17, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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4 responses to “Personal Skill Set

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  1. I tend not to focus on too much description and let readers imagine for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. #9 – Don’t go into great detail describing places and things – Elmore Leonard
    It’s enough to sketch, or as Monet said, “to see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.” Something remarkably well handled by Faulkner in the 20s. “…broaching a timeless violet twilight between solemn bearded cypresses motionless as bronze… The water was like oil and the Nausikaa forged onward without any sensation of motion through a corridor without ceiling or floor.” That’s not just A level lit, it’s word art. Chekhov – “Show me the light on broken glass.” says more about a room than inventory. Tchaikovsky as half speed bells from a headless ballerina topped music box, on the mirror, a faded crimson kiss pressed on a concert ticket…

    And it’s all in word choice. Twain said that it was preferable to find the right word, not three or four of its cousins. Crimson as opposed to red, grimy beats dirty. That sort of thing. Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I struggle to find the ‘right’ amount of description.. (I’m getting better about room descriptions as a dream over houses for sale and look for their flaws!)

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  4. I like to leave a lot of the fleshing out to the reader, give them a basic idea and let their imagination do the rest. Talking to readers, they often see the world I have created so differently to me, or see things in it that I never realise I had inferred.

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