Monday, 29 December 2014

12 days of writing: detail

This Christmas, sneak off for twenty minutes to half an hour each day for some lovely, restful creative play with the 12 Days of Writing. If you've just joined in, start your story here. Each day, you get a new prompt to develop it further. (Subscribe to the blog on the top right to get it emailed to you.)

Detail: reviving dead space



"Dead space" is whatever bits of writing you feel you ought to include, but find boring, tend to leave out on a first draft, think is unimportant, or plod through with a sense of duty. Some things that people find "dead space" for them are...

  • action breaking up dialogue
  • dialogue itself
  • people's appearances
  • clothes
  • describing rooms
  • describing places / scenery

First off, what's your "dead space"? Pick that, first.

Now that you've got that, flip back through everything you've done about characterisation, your locations, your sense of the time, your symbol, theme, subplot... Which is the bit you find most interesting?

Now put the two together. Use the "dead space" to write about the thing that interests you most. For example, if describing the location bores you, and characterisation interests you, write it from that character's point of view to show us who they are, how they think. If dialogue bores you and theme interest you, get two of your characters to argue it out. And so on.


Tomorrow we'll play with Endings. If you want to share what you invent, tweet me @WritersGreenHse. I'd love to hear.

For more on exploring and enriching stories, you can download the Story Elements: The Complete Set - only available for ONE MORE DAY. Find out more, see previews, and download it here.


 On people's appearances: there's an issue of gender imbalance between how much description men and women get, the nature of that description, and how that description is used in the story. Generally speaking, women are described more, and more in terms of their sexual attractiveness, and often their physical appearance is used to characterise them. I recently found myself exclaiming in exasperation - to a class of women! - "Pretty is not a personality trait!" Whatever the gender of the character, I find it disturbing when physical characteristics are used to imply personality, especially if "ugly" / "fat" is used as a shorthand for "nasty person". Also, among white writers, non-white racial characteristics often get flagged up where whiteness doesn't. There are probably other prejudices at work in appearance that I haven't thought of. So by all means, do tell us what characters look like, but be aware of these pitfalls. They might creep in anyway, because unconscious bias is just that, unconscious, but at least being aware of it can attune you to edit it out / change it!

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