Friday, December 20, 2013

Both Brains Required: Getting the Most Out of Left and Right When You Write

I was working on my WIP yesterday and I started falling asleep. I take it as a bad sign when my own manuscript is putting *me* to sleep. The words just weren't flowing. The sentences were awkward. The dialog, not credible. What happened?

Faced with writer's block, or a simple lack of enthusiasm, or whatever you want to call it, I like to go back to the beginning. I start reading through the current draft with the freshest eyes I can muster, imagining myself in the shoes of a reader, picturing the opening scenes of the movie (yes, this does help!) In going back to the beginning, I find I can usually identify the place where I would be getting up for popcorn instead of riveted to the screen. That's the part that needs fixing.

I often find (as I did yesterday) that the issue is a left-brain* one, rather than a right-brain one as I would have expected. It often turns out that the creative juices are flowing just fine, but they don't have the right channel to flow through. This is when it helps to go back and turn on the left brain. Start asking those basic questions again:

  • What would my protagonist really be thinking at this moment? What would her actions be?
  • Would that secondary character react as I currently have him reacting? Or would he be likely to do something else, given what we know about him? 
  • Are we in the right POV for this scene? 
  • Is it even the right time for this scene?

Yesterday, I found that the problem was a plot hole. The sentences were awkward because I had put my characters into a situation that wasn't very strong to begin with. The dialog was not credible because it was out of character for the characters. Once my left brain figured this out, I spent the latter part of my day butchering said scene and then reworking the plot to make more sense. A total left-brain activity.

I find that the creativity tends to follow a strong plot and strong characters. If I'm excited about what's going to happen and who it's going to happen to, I find it easy to write the scene in a captivating way. That's when the right brain gets its time in the spotlight.

*Disclaimer: I'm using left-brain and right-brain in this post in the classic sense: the right-brain being responsible for creativity, and the left-brain for analytical thinking. So please don't go all left-brain on me here and point out that recent studies suggest this is not the case as we previously thought. I know that. It's a metaphor.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Most Over-Used Protagonists in Today's Novel Part III: The Porn Star

OK. So Fifty Shades of Grey sold fifteen gazillion copies. I get it. Sex sells, and we have known this ever since the first sexually reproducing hermaphroditic flatworms evolved out of an amoeba's binary fission gone wrong. But please understand something, dear reader (by which I actually mean, dear writer.) The fact that sex sells does NOT mean that writing porn is going to make you E.L. James. It won't, indeed.

To put a little bit of perspective on this "new" trend of writing porn disguised as literature, let's take a moment to review the evolution of porn.

In the beginning, there was Ron Jeremy.

Ron Jeremy at 2007 AVN Awards
Ron Jeremy at 2007... by CrazyJ attributed to CC by 3.0

For those of you who are too young to remember him, Ron Jeremy was the Christian Grey of his time. In fact, he was the Christian Grey of everyone's time, even more so than Christian Grey.

Jeremy starred in more than two thousand smut movies over the course of several decades. He was ranked number one by Adult Video News (AVN) on their Top Fifty Porn Stars of All Time, and for those of us who don't watch these goofy flicks, he's probably the only name in the biz that we can even come up with. I see the resemblance to Christian Grey, don't you?

But then, Jeremy's life and career took a turn for the worse. In the natural course of human evolution, the species came to understand that, actually, pornography is stupid, and anyone over 13 years of age doesn't need to watch porn and pretend to be all dark and devious in order to have sex. 

At the same time in history, another trend was occurring. Our species began to figure out that the music inevitably associated with pornography sucks.
Disco Dancers
Disco Dancers by eeyrsja open clipart public domain

The 8-track soundtracks and the VHS videos began increasingly to grace the bargain sections of adult bookstores, and the popularity of the industry faded. The ruin of his career forced Ron Jeremy into a life of terrorism. He later confessed to plotting the September 11 attacks.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Taken by US Forces Public domain

So you see, dear reader (and by that, again, I mean writer,) writing porn will only land you in Guantanamo Bay. And...your novels will suck. So please, stop doing it. Just stop it. Thank you.

For additional examples of the Most Over-Used Protagonists in Today's Novel, click here and here.