That’s my longest title thus far.
1. Playing Out Scenes in my head. This is something that I have been really big on doing for some time now and it just seems to be one of those things I will never be able to rid myself of. When I am sitting around and my mind wanders I play out things in my head with the characters from my writing. A lot of the time it’s a practice run for something that needs to be written into the story at a later date, but it also could be something completely random that I will never write into being. I could just see them shopping or going to the bank or something mundane and I think about how them doing it would differ from me doing it.
This is all very embarrassing, by the way.
2. Eavesdropping on people in public. Before this starts to look really dire for me, this isn’t the kind of eavesdropping that you do to gain information per se. Well it is. But the information gained isn’t in what they’re saying, but more how they’re saying it. Let me explain. A long while back my dialogue was atrocious. Not Lovecraft bad, but it wasn’t good either. I read a book on writing dialogue and one of the few tips I still remember from that book was go out to a public place where there are people talking and sit far enough away that if they get up they can’t see what you’re doing. Listen for bits of interesting phrasing and write it down, write how they say it and don’t worry about the context. Study how people talk in back and forth conversations and find the rhythm. Then cut out the non-essential parts. (In writing it’s not crucial that your characters speak exactly like real people—but it is important that they give the illusion of sounding like real people.
I don’t still write things down for the most part, but if I hear something really nice sounding I have to write it. (Remember the other day I was talking about Writer’s Idea Notebooks?) A good example is a friend at work said the phrase “he’s a peach” about a customer. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew I wanted to write it down. I don’t even think that at this point I have a character I can use it on…
3. Cutting out prose that stands out as too good. I couldn’t think of another way to phrase this, which also probably shows that this happens very rarely compared to the other examples. But someone once taught me that if there is some description or small thing that is so good it distracts or detracts from the rest of the piece and it’s not essential, cut it. That sounds odd, I know.
But whenever I have done this in the past and let people read it afterwards they’ve always commented on the flow being so good and how the characters and things just seem to meld right together like they should and everything reads much better. Sometimes one sentence can ruin a whole page of writing and in my personal opinion a good flow is much more important that flowery descriptions.
In fact, I put story telling about writing and description pretty much one hundred and sixty percent of the time.