Before You Walk a Mile in Somone's Shoes, Take a Few Moments to Try them On.
Today's Guest post comes from Mr. Marc Mattaliano.
Read some of Marc's writing here: https://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.aspx?bookid=72031&pdept=Bookstore%20Homepage&pfind=browseWriting since I was little, the best thing to describe Marc Mattaliano is his analytical nature that knows no bounds. Intelligence is defined as what you know, while wisdom is defined as what you get out of what you know. My personal experiences have been slight, but I have gained so much from each and every one of them by asking questions, constantly breaking things down and wondering if my choices have been the right ones, that I consider myself wiser than some who have endured far more than me yet are completely unwilling to question anything. When it comes to writing, despite having three full-length books (one self-published, one almost ready for queries, and one in need of major updating), my work may seem amateur to some, but I’ve come to find that everything I put together these days is extremely intentional. A lot of people say they don’t want to die with regrets. Personally, I love my regrets. They inspire me to do things better next time. I’m 30, born and raised in NJ, 100% Italian, and I’m a lot harsher in words than I am in person. Enjoy!
Before You Walk a Mile in Someone’s Shoes, Take a Few Moments to Try Them On
Here’s another writing analogy…
When you go to the shoe store, do you stroll up and down the aisles for your size, check out a nice-looking pair, cart them up to the register, pay, walk out and throw them on your feet? Hopefully not. I’m 30 and I’ve had ingrown toenails pop up since I was a teeny weeny little tyke, so during the three moments in my life that I’ve actually gone to the shoe store of my own free will, I’ve always tried to make sure that the shoes I pick out fit, are comfortable, take me where I want to go and don’t give me any blisters. In order to do that, I need to take my time, go slow and ease myself into the commitment I’m making (and to bring this analogy back to start, reading is ALL about commitment, dedicating yourself to reach the end).
Sometimes, I feel as if writing rules that dictate that an author needs to jump right into the action of a beginning scene are rushing themselves.
I realize that when writing a tale from a first person perspective, let’s say, the character in question needs to apply a certain amount of extra description, otherwise, all we’re really reading is their inner monologues and hearing what they say in dialogue.
However, there has to be some acknowledgement of suspense. For example, someone waking up in the morning. Is the very first thing a character thinks about when waking up what everything around them looks like? Or is the first thing they think, perhaps, what they felt like the night before and how they feel now after “sleeping on it?”
Remember, when we go to bed, we don’t just shut off. Our brains are fully functioning while we aren’t. So, when a person wakes up, they’re not busy paying attention to what their lamp looks like and how the curves of the curtains are representing the choppy waves that are buckling the ship they call their life. Doesn’t happen. More likely, they’re thinking about what’s most important to them and seeing if anything feels different in this new day.
Of course, that’s okay in the middle of the story, but what about the beginning? I posted a piece on Prologues and Introductions, and I feel like that was a good way to breach this issue.
Previously, I spoke about pasts, too, and how important it is to go into excruciating detail about them up front. If you know nothing about a current character, you have absolutely no context for where they are in life. Then again, if you know everything about a current character, you start to think, “okay, why are they in this predicament and haven’t changed things yet?”
Thus, again, there has to be a balance. I feel like an author easing a reader in with scant details can help do this at the right rate.
After all, doesn’t it make the most sense that a character’s mindset will be occupied by the things that matter most to them? What kinds of issues they think about should be considered as much character development as the actions they take. Establishing what goes on in a person’s mind right out of the gate takes a while and shouldn’t be rushed.
It takes only a few paragraphs to tell where someone works or goes to school, what a person’s family life is like, and what a person looks like. It takes far more effort to illustrate what kinds of varied thoughts a person has regularly.
Tune in 7/27/11 for Marc's final post.