Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Close Are You? Degrees in Writing

When you write, do you think about how each phrase, line, or choice of words will affect your readers? Do you achieve a balance of emotion, action, and those quiet moments of reflection? It's finding the right mix, knowing when to pull your readers in with intensity of emotion, and when you need to back away and give them a breather that will achieve great writing.

For instance, if you write a paragraph about how a character reacts to a situation: (1)Anna opened the door to find the room dark and silent. (2) She crossed to the other side and stopped by the bed. (3)Something deep inside caused her to shiver and she puzzled over what it might be.(4)Anna reached out hesitantly with her hand, her fingers barely touching the covers. (5)Please don't lose your courage now, she told herself.

Okay, so you can probably see that sentences 1 and 2 are purely describing her actions and therefore have little intensity. Then, with sentence 3 you find some emotional insite thrown in to pull the reader closer. Sentence 4 backing away a bit; sentence 5 pulling in, up close, with her internal thought.

Of course, just as this balanced mix works within a paragraph, it is important to use the proper degree of intensity according to where you are in your story. Think of your major scenes as fence posts. These are intense. Then in between there are your smaller, transition scenes. These should be less intense. And, as you near the climax, you should be turning up the intensity level big time, lots of emotion and action.

Take a look at any novel and see if you recognize the varying degrees of intensity. And then check out James Scott Bell's book, Plot and Structure for more advice on this topic and more. Your use of degrees in writing can make the difference.


Bruce Coltin said...

Good stuff. I'm glad I found you.

teacherwriter said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully I will post more often. Just so much writing to do :-)

Michelle said...

Thank you, very interesting and helpful.


Cara Powers said...

I was reading Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (again)and noticed the changes in Thursday's voice as she narrates different scenes. Exactly what you posted but on a larger scale-across the whole book instead of just one paragraph. My review should go up Monday some time.