Double Duty

by Intermittent Rain ~ July 9th, 2016

I’ve been working and thinking a lot about various things related to writing.

One is layering.

long exposure 38s f/11 - Bulb Mode

By layering I mean multiple levels of meaning or connection so that there is more than one thread connecting every phrase to the plot, the setting, the personalities, or the themes. In other words, why describe the light as “clear and bright” when you can say “cutting through the darkness like a knife” if the threat of a knife and cutting adds to the mood or the tension (and the cliche isn’t too painful), or “illuminated the dust hanging from long forgotten spider webs” if one of your themes is memory or time.

Or, as a writer you know you need to mix bits of setting or description of actions with your dialog, so rather than have the waiter ask about refills, have a baby in the next booth start to cry because one of your characters has a problem with her repressed childhood memories.

This is what I mean by double duty. It could be even triple duty; a beat to let the dialog settle in the reader’s mind, a description to add strength to the setting, while also a metaphor for one of the themes of your story. Or any other sort of multiple purpose use.

What these multiple layers do is weave a denser tapestry so the fabric of your story is supported in numerous ways. Not all of this hard work will be obvious to the reader but subconsciously they will get the feeling that yes, this characteristic of this person is clear to me because of this, this and this, but there will be these other subtle supporting connections that they cannot list unless they spend the time with your story like you did writing it.


Word frequency counter; an add-in for Word

by Intermittent Rain ~ April 24th, 2016

I have to give a shout-out to this word frequency counter add-in for Word:

Word frequency is something I review when self-editing. Get a count of each word, decide which ones I’m overusing, do a search-and-replace-with-highlight in Word and it’s easy to read and consider options.

Word will count words, but not give you a frequency. There are web sites that will do this, but you have to upload your file to their site and some restrict the size of the document (though, as a trade-off, they often do other analysis as well). The add-in doesn’t require Internet access, runs within Word, and can export to a separate file which I copy to Excel and massage further.

Now, if it would only measure proximity of words as well so I can see that I’ve used ‘word’ three times in the first paragraph and three more in the second and twice in the third ..

Painting with Words

by Intermittent Rain ~ January 30th, 2016

It’s been pointed out to me (and I’ve been subconsciously aware) that my writing over the past year or two has become more convoluted and laced with more (sometimes) challenging grammatical errors.

A few factors:

  • more complicated situations and characters
  • desire to push my prose
  • poetic licence

But I’m beginning to think the biggest factor is that I’m writing and editing like an improvising painter. I decide that a situation or description needs a dash of red, but not just basic red; rosewood red. That specific color has slight characteristics or elements that regular red does not have. With that addition I think that section as a whole represents what I want to say but I don’t notice that the shade conflicts with other parts of that section, all of which have elements of green.

I think I want rosewood red (or the gerund version of a verb, or an unexpected metaphor, or a strange wording) and it isn’t until someone points out the awkwardness or the mismatch and perhaps suggests a smoother revision that I see what they’re seeing. Only then do I realize that I have not fully thought out why I need rosewood red, not seen the conflict, and not made a conscious decision either to keep it and rework other things so the unintentional awkwardness is removed, place it so that it’s clear why that conflict or oddness is considered and necessary, or revise it with a version that works better with the colors (words, phrases, sentences) around it. Instead, I see the composite of what I’ve placed there and what it includes.

It’s like being a beginning writer and making simple grammar or sentence construction or POV or logic errors and reading right past when I self-edit, only now I’m doing so at a higher level (I hope) where I’m striving for subtle or complex or intentionally nebulous communication which is more difficult to work perfectly. I’m using a larger palette with more shades and in more combinations and trying to use them in such a way that paints a better picture, one that more completely includes all of what I’d like to say.

Like the writing here. Metaphors and multiple options or versions all strung together in long sentences; these are examples of some types of prose situations I’m getting myself tied up in. But there others. And I think they’re all arising from the same basic writing issue; trying to get a more complete communication of all the elements and shades that I want to get across.