On writerly weaknesses and multiple story personalities.

I think every writer has a weakness, something they have to work hard to get past. And lack of scene and character development is mine. But it's not entirely my fault.

Allow me to explain.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer's style and content are directly influenced by what they read, especially the books that they read and loved as a kid.

It makes sense, after all most of us end up writing the stories we want to read. And that's great, right?

Sometimes though...it's not that easy.

When I was younger I had two loves, two very different book passions: fantasy and mystery. In fantasy I loved huge, imaginative worlds, Robert Jordan and Piers Anthony and Brian Jacques and Anne McCaffrey.  I wanted dragons and super-intelligent animals and magic and swordplay and adventure.

But I also adored mystery and suspense, and my taste in those were very different: Agatha Christie and Alistair Maclean  and Arthur Conan Doyle. Books where the plot was the thing, books with pared down writing, that drew characters in broad strokes and always came up with a killer twist.

Two very different genres. I loved them both. I devoured them both.  Great, right?


Fast forward a couple of decades. I finally stop trying to do something else with my life and admit that what everyone has been telling me since high school is true: I'm a writer. And a writer writes. So I do.

But at some point, I hit a snag. I have this book that I think is awesome, that other people have told me is awesome, but the consistent criticism I'm getting is that the characters aren't developed enough, that the world isn't drawn in enough detail. So I work on it, on and off, for a few years. I write more books in between. I try to get better so I can understand how to fix this book that everyone responds to so well.

Finally, it happens. I get an agent, then an editor, wonderful people who love my book. And I get edits: real, honest to goodness, in-depth professional edits. And they are awesome. But once again, the same problem kept popping up.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Scene is awesome, but too short! Dig in and really develop it! 
ME: *in genuine confusion* Whaaa.... Develop how? The scene has everything it needs to move the story. What else would I put in? 

And that's when it hit me. I have multiple story personalities. I build worlds like the ones I loved as a kid, with complex interactions and adventure and magic. But my writing style is much more like the early mysteries, where things are hinted at rather than explained and plot is more important than character development.

My imagination is J.R.R. Tolkien but my writing is Agatha Christie.


Fortunately one of the wonderful things about writing is that the better you get, the easier it is for you to learn to do something new. It took several tries, and lots of conversation with my beta-reader husband, but I actually did manage to dig into those scenes.

Still, I have a feeling that "not developed enough, dig in more" is going to be a conversation that I have over and over in my writing career.*  And since it's a problem that stems from reading too many awesome books as a kid, I'm okay with that.

Do you have a writer weakness?

*On the plus side, if I can pull off this whole mystery/fantasy mashup, the book will be pretty amazing. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Click on "Older Posts" for more random amusements!

Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.