Thursday, March 19, 2009

This or this - A writer's eye chart

This or this

Those of us optically challenged will recognize this phrase said by the optician in an attempt to correct mother nature's cruel joke. I'm sure she is in the aetheric laughing. What is funnier than giving avid readers and writers poor eyesight? At least we humans get the last laugh with stylish frames and contacts that make our eyes even bluer.

For those who are blessed with perfect vision (I don't hate you, really I don't), some man or woman in a white lab coat worn to fill us with confidence that they are just the magician we need to achieve perfection sticks this huge ugly black thing in front of us that contains the relief our poor souls are crying out for.

"This or this," he or she says as we compare the two different lens we are presented by the huge black magic glasses machine. Sometimes it's "A or B." The purpose of this activity is to determine the magic numbers that will forever change our lives by allowing us to read and write without getting headaches from squinting at all the blurry lines. It's an important activity, boring, but important.

She or he doesn't stop until this and this start producing results that are too close to tell apart, thus narrowing down the precise numbers to write on the little piece of white paper to take to another magician to get our corrective lens in whatever form our vanity decides on.

Writing is like the huge black magic glasses machine. Our wonderful muse keeps presenting us with options, at least she does when our hot male lead isn't busy seducing her, and we have to decide between them. This or this, she says as our fingers glide across the keyboard. Sometime the this'es are small things, but sometimes they aren't.

That's what I've been facing this last month. "This or this" my muse says when it comes to where to start the book. "This or this" she says as I determine which character to center the book around. "This or this," she says when it comes to the all important choice of POV.

There was one problem. To determine which this is better, we look through the huge black magic glasses machine at a chart with pretty letters on it. What is the chart when it comes to writing? That's what separates the writers who are good at their craft from those who are great writers.

"Craft is always secondary to the truth of emotional connection"
-Konstanti Stanislavsky

That is the eye chart writers use. When we lose sight of that, all the this and this'es in the world won't matter. We can't see clearly when we have nothing to look at to determine what is clear.

That quote is written in big letters above my computer. I lost sight of what drove me to write The Fallen in the first place, way back when it was called Rejection: A Vampire's Tale. A scene--a vampire biting someone, but feeling rejected when she reacts with horror--is what came to me five years ago. That strong emotion is what got me to the computer every day November 2007. Even when I had a 102 degree fever over Thanksgiving weekend, I drove myself to the library to escape the distractions of family and mirth.

Surprisingly, when I brought the story back to the emotions of the vampire, craft came along for the ride. For the first time ever, I feel like my work can compare to the likes of Kelley Armstrong and Keri Arthur. I spent 6 hours rewriting chapter 1 yesterday, and what came out was very good. It is tight, sensuous and most importantly emotional.

So with my new frames, (tenth verse same as the first) writing the story from the first person of the vampire, and my new eye chart, focusing on the emotional connection, I am tackling yet another major rewrite of The Fallen.

Let's hope the huge black magic glasses machine has steered me right.


Rick Daley said...

This reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone with Burgess Meredith, the banker who loves to read but is harassed by everyone for it. He goes into the vault to get away from everyone, and while he is down there a nuclear war wipes everyone out, leaving him alone with his books. He comes out of the vault, goes to the library, and breaks his glasses. Now he's just alone.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I love the analogy--and without my glasses or contacts I'm blind as can be. So I share your pain. Great post.