Please welcome guest poster Laura R. Espinosa to WU. Laura was one of our finalists for our WU unpublished contributor, and she made the cut because she has a fresh, funny voice and a unique perspective: she’s a co-author with one of her close friends. She’s also an artist and animator.
“My ultimate goal is to publish the urban fantasy series my co-author and I are writing, because some authors have a story that simply needs to be told, and the muse won’t let them go until it is. “
She’s been writing stories since she was little, but it took a more serious light in 2005 after her first NanoWrimo experience.
We wish her all the luck in the world. Enjoy!
We’ve all experienced this at least once. A moment—or rather a long string of endless minutes—where you are in front of your wip doggedly plowing through a scene that you are just not feeling. And when you’re done and read your finished prose, your inner critic confirms what you knew all along: this scene sucks.
Your protagonist is flat, your setting descriptions vague, and just reading it leaves your ears burning in shame. You look at the tight, almost mystical prose of the scene prior and wonder if another person crafted those words, because it’s obvious that you don’t currently wield the magic pen, and if you did, you don’t remember which back pocket you placed it in.
Rewriting the scene again or, worse, starting over becomes a looming task hanging over the progress of your manuscript. Suddenly, drowning your woes with a bottle of tequila sounds more appealing.
Well, if you’re like me, tequila isn’t an option. I weigh 90 pounds and anything stronger than a margarita will leave me incapacitated. Not the best way to solve a bout of “Argh, I can’t nail this scene.” Because that’s what this is. It’s not that you can’t write. It’s not that you are a horrible writer and you should leave the craft all together. Like Anna Elliott’s post on how she can’t nail down voice until her characters start talking to her, this is a classic example of not knowing your scene.
If you find your protagonist is delivering flat, almost unmotivated actions, you may not have a good grasp on how he’s suppose to be reacting. And if your descriptions leave something to be desired, try expanding your imagination’s lens to a wider scope and simply soak in the details. Give yourself a little play room to explore your scene enough to be able to write about it well.
What I do sometimes, when I find myself completely unable to connect to a scene I’m writing, is pretend that I’m actually in it. I step into my character’s shoes, walk onto the stage that I’ve created on the page, and literally act out the scene, usually in front of a full length mirror with props so I can make a fool of myself.
I went to animation school. So part of my studies involved standing in front of mirrors, pretending I was inanimate 3D objects that had personalities (Pixar’s Luxo Jr). And as strange as that sounds, the purpose of those exercises was to get under your character’s skin and find out why he did certain things. If you wanted a character to do something as simple as blink, there had to be a reason; a want and a desire. Every action had to convey something. Every choice had to have meaning. Otherwise it was groundless, clunky movement that clogged up your performance.
Even though this exercise was given to me as an animator, I’ve found it useful when I’m struggling with a difficult scene. As writers, we too have characters and settings that, without us, would be stiff prose on paper. But sometimes, the act of breathing life into our pages is very hard. Sometimes we write prose that’s disconnected, because we don’t have a good grasp on the scene in front of us.
So try to. Get up, stand in front of that mirror, and step into your scene. See how it feels like to act it out. Do several takes. And I promise you’ll go back to your computer able to breathe new life into that dead prose.