Good writing takes work. Great writing takes sweat. Hi Def writing requires blood, sweat and tears.
In that great old Rolling Stones song – ‘It’s only Rock and Roll’, Mick sings:
If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would ya think the boy’s insane?
The lyrics tell the lyricist’s dilemma. To satisfy the ear of the listener, it has to be ever new, always fresh, the same idea said in a new relevant way. It’s the same for a writer telling a story. There are only a limited number of themes. How are you going to tell your story in a way that grabs the reader? It’s got to be high definition. Now, that isn’t a regular writing term, I just made it up. But it seems to define the issue. A few years ago I was perfectly happy with my nice color TV. But when the prices started coming down on HD TV, well, it was time to get one. And once you’ve had that, how can you possibly go back? Everything is vivid, real. You see individual hairs, freckles, drops of sweat…you are there, right next to that person on the screen.
Writing can be like that. When a writer hits that level, oh, it’s pretty. But it’s not easy. I was struggling with a chapter a couple of days ago. I read a post on my friend Janie Bill’s blog, http://feelingfiction.com and it inspired me to go back and give it another go: Open with feelings. I spent two hours on the first paragraph, stop, start, spin my wheels…over and over again. In the blogpost it said that you didn’t even need to describe what your character looks like at first. I didn’t agree, but I followed the advice. It worked. If you are in the character’s head, you wouldn’t think of describing yourself. Save that for later. it usually doesn’t matter during that first impression. Open with feelings, AND show, not tell, (that other mantra we hear repeated over and over). And then, somehow, it all came together. So, what was the result?
The main character came alive; his thoughts, feelings, frustrations, his world seen through his eyes, hints of the prologue, foreshadowing of the story arc, his perceptions, taken in not just through his eyes, but through sound and touch and smell.
I was digging down deep in my heart, and feelings were flooding on to the page.
I was there, in northern England in 394 AD, standing on the southern battlements of the castle at dawn, deep in self-doubt, pondering sedition against a foreign empire. For just a moment, I was the king.
I finally wrapped up the scene. My first thought – wow, what did I just do? For a little while, I had truly gotten inside this character’s head; smelled the sea breeze in my face, felt the rough stonework, saw the morning rays of the sun grazing the tops of the trees, heard the flag snapping in the wind.
My second thought – this is way too long, I can’t have this scene be four pages. Then I looked back. Much to my amazement I found it to be only one and a half pages long. Then I marveled at how much I had put into such a short space.
Sometimes you do need narrative exposition. That’s what my original version of this scene was. I kept “show” in mind, and it helped. But by bringing in a pivotal character I was able to relate the same information, and more, through his thoughts and senses.
Open with feelings, and
Show, not tell
Dig deep, really feel the emotion. If you get it right, you’ll surprise yourself. It’ll be some of your best stuff. It will be Hi-Def writing.