Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Perfect Blend

No, I'm not talking about the perfect cup of coffee, though I do love Starbuck's Christmas Blend. Yummy! What I'm talking about is . . . well, wait, let me go back to the inspiration for this post . . .

Sunday morning, early, early, and I'm wide awake. So, get out of bed, flip the Christmas tree lights on, get some coffee, turn on some Christmas music, and sit with Jesse and James. As I'm sitting there, I'm looking at the Christmas tree and noticing the various ornaments on the tree. Some of them were Frank's before he met me, some of them mine before I met him, a few are from my childhood, some were gifts from friends, and many were purchased throughout our years together. They're all on the tree . . . the perfect blend of both our pasts and our present.

So, Christmas music in the background, lights glimmering on the tree, and my mind gets stuck on the concept of the perfect blend and I realize that our writing should also be a perfect blend.

Our writing should contain . . .
  • Narrative
  • Showing versus Telling
  • Dialogue - snappy, snarky, realistic
  • A few margaritas for our characters, and perhaps the author, to drink along the way.
  • Action
  • Very little passive voice
  • Voice - however you define it
  • Believable characters (flaws must exist)
  • And so much other stuff

Writing is just not putting the words onto a piece of paper. Heck, if it was that easy, everybody would be a writer. Writing is about blending everything we ever learned in High School English, tossing a bit of it away (just for good measure), everything we've learned in the blogsphere (again, toss some of it away, rules were made to be broken after all), and pouring our passion and energy into the writing. We need to mix it well, but not too much, because sometimes, overmixing can create a very stiff, practically inedible, dough! Yuck.

Blend everything just write (yes, did that on purpose) so that our readers can enjoy the perfect blend of our knowledge, talent, and a few things we've gleaned along the way.

So, when you edit your book - objectively, after much distance - do you have the perfect blend? Is there a bit of your past in there? Are your characters realistic? Is there more telling than showing? Ooops, was that a passive voice passage?? Is there a distinct voice? A mild voice? No voice at all? Is your dialogue realistic? Stilted? Would someone that age say that??? Are your characters too perfect? Does everything go right for them? Does there cat not hack up a hairball at 2 AM? If not, I want that cat. I'm just saying . . .

So, do you have the perfect blend in your writing that will compel readers to keep turning the page and demand you write another, and another, and another, and another, and another . . . book???



Ann Elle Altman said...

I agree. It's something all beginner writers have problems with. Some writers excel at some of those points and have to learn the others. But, that's what makes writing a craft... you have to practice it.


Robyn Campbell said...

The perfect blend. I like how you weave this into our writing. It's a wonderful post my friend.

I remember writing a scene in my MG novel where I completely lost the voice of one important character. I had been locked onto that voice, but for some reason lost it for a season. I got it back, because I remembered how I had discovered it to begin with.

In writing for kids, we often have to dive back into our childhoods for that 'special' flavor we need.

"Humph! How'd I miss that one," she mumbles. :)

Marybeth Poppins said...

I totally thought this was going to be about the perfectly blended margarita!

There is nothing better than the perfect blend in a novel. I HOPE my MS has this. I think it does. It got one critiquer to read it in two hours.

There is still hope for me!

Scott said...

Ann - you're right, the beginner doesn't have a clue. I know I didn't. It took me many years to figure everything out . . . and I'm still learning.

Robyn - the reason you didn't figure out this post is that I kept thinking about coffee and ornaments, and just knew you wouldn't figure it out. Ha! This post has been percolating (ha) in my mind for a few days. I just had to figure out how to blend (oooh, somebody stop me) everything together.

Marybeth - I did consider the perfect blend (add orange juice) for margaritas, but decided to go with the coffee reference . . . and, yes, there is still hope for you.

ElanaJ said...

Ah, this is the mac daddy of all writing posts. Because it's so true. Every page, every scene has to have the perfect blend. Not only that, it has to bleed into the next scene, the next page, the next chapter. Without seams.

You are wise, my young padawan. (ha ha!)

Scott said...

Elana - Mac Daddy? Did you turn a certain age on your last birthday? I mean, when a friend of mine turned a certain age he started using words like 'dapper'! Seriously! : ) Young Padawan? Hmmmm, I think a certain person has had a perfect blend of something this morning! (Ha)! You're write, it's about blending and seamlessness. Everything must flow. It's a hard lesson to learn, but something we always need to remember.

Jayne Martin said...

Well, said. I learned about showing-not-telling through many years spent as a writer of TV movies. Now that I'm writing primarily prose, I'm learning it all over again, and so much more. Good post. And I love Starbuck's Christmas Blend!

P.S. If you disable your word verification nothing bad will happen. You will just make your commentators happy. If you get Disques, I'll marry you.

Scott said...

Jayne - Starbucks Christmas blend is the best. I always stock up on it at Christmastime.

Patti Lacy said...

Great post, and something my agent talks about--balance and structure.

Sigh. Hard for a writer who loves to go all over the place!!

Great post.

Jody Hedlund said...

What a very cool analogy, Scott! I really want my stories to be a blend of a lot of different things. The trick is getting that balance so that not one particular "ornament" sticks out as gaudy!