I’ve been struck by this amazing reluctance to sit down and write this blog. I don’t really know why exactly, although my suspicion has something to do with the absolute aggravation editing causes, and it left me trying to resuscitate a blog I have saved in my drafts. It didn’t go well.
I tweaked and I tweaked and still I can’t get my head around what the hell it was I had been intending to do with it. So, alas, I decided to give up on it for now (with any luck it will be among the living and posted online for next week) and write a bit more about writing. This has little to do with the technical aspects of it as I’m incredibly sick of dealing in that nitpicky realm of comma, semicolon, period, comma…(ellipses!) you get the idea.
That other blog discusses imagery and, instead of talking about wonderful examples of it, prompted me to think of how I approach imagery in my own works. I’m very much a literal person so often times my physical descriptions start sparse and matter of fact and then evolve to something a bit smoother to communicate the emotion of the scene (if it’s applicable). But last week my father asked me this question on our way back from zip-lining: How would you describe something like that? How could you?
We’re not talking about discussions of the rigging, how it’s used, what position your body should be in, but rather the feeling of it. Questions like that always pop up in my mind these days and it winds up being a little game I play with myself when there’s a particular memory, sensation or experience I want to hold on to. Words become important to me as they make all of it more concrete. Whatever “it” is could be absolutely miserable but miserable is uninteresting and does nothing to distinguish one person’s experience from another’s. Since we can probably agree that all people live life differently in some way, shape, or form you can see why this is so incredibly important.
Each character demands a different representation of their emotional landscape as well as, perhaps even most importantly, how it impacts their interpretations of the world. While I don’t often expand the game of “how would I describe this” to include “how would that person think of this” it’s still an exercise which almost always leads me on the path to better descriptive work.
I would like to share with you one sentence from my completed manuscript which always tickles me to read (the character was in a holding cell and is, at the moment of this sentence, being brought to a meeting with her lawyer before her arraignment) :
“The room stood several feet in front of her, a solid metal door with a window stood ajar allowing whatever feeble, bluish light there was to creep across the floor and over the toes of her shoes.”
That sentence came to me while sitting at my desk, closing my eyes and thinking of everything around my dear Julianne. It was one of those well defined moments of writing where I consciously thought of what she was seeing, what she was feeling and wrote down what came to mind. While it’s something I *always* do now it wasn’t a technique I had really gotten my head around in the beginning of that manuscript.
Oh, and about zip-lining: The whir of the wire supporting me buzzed inside my head, a high pitched timbre a pleasant cacophany as the landscape slid by on a slow moving fast forward. It was as though I were on a horizontal slide and I was a child; the world rushing by, no sense of my ownmass, of bills which had to be paid, and a lightness of being coming from the feeling of immortality. While on the lines there were no thoughts to danger. The canopy simply existed and invited me to come play- so I did.
What experiences have you had which leave you struggling to find “just the right words” to describe? Are the emotions the difficult part or the scenery?
And, on a personal note, you should really try zip-lining. It’s awesome.