Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RNA Conference 4 (part 2) - Linda Gillard

Yesterday I posted part one of Linda Gillard's session on Sense and Sensitivity. Today brings you part two and tomorrow the final part. Enjoy.

You’ve been recording “TELLING” DETAIL - detail which tells the story




Look at the pictures of settings (note -these are just random ones off of my 'puter) and choose one that appeals - a picture that interests you, or that you might like to “walk into” if you could.

WRITING TASK 2 Settings 10 mins
1. Study the picture and make notes – sounds, smells, textures & tastes.

Try to imagine a full sensory picture of your scene.
Think about air quality, temperature… What would the textures feel like? What sounds could be going on in the background? Or is it silent? What is the quality of that silence?
Can you smell anything?… (Make things up!)

(Is there a detail that encapsulates the scene as a sort of sensory postcard?)

2. Try to develop your notes into a few sentences to capture the scene. Write about the visuals if you like but don’t let them dominate. Try to let the reader know what it was like to be there, not what it looked like.


Telling detail doesn’t have to be visual. (What things looked like wasn’t necessarily the most important thing.)

For the purposes of romantic writing, the other senses might do a better and less clichéd job.

In STAR GAZING I wrote love scenes (and indeed sex scenes) that had no visual element at all because they were written in the first person and the narrator-heroine was blind…

When writing my 1st novel EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY I’d made the discovery about “the spaces in-between” which readers fill in for you

Back story…
Post-illness, conserving mental and physical energy, I wrote short sections and I wrote about detail - the little picture, not the big picture.

When I got feedback from readers I found that focusing on detail had nevertheless painted a big picture because of the wonderful magic whereby readers fill in, as “co-creator”.

In EG I described rocks. People saw landscape.
I described colours and threads and people saw quilts.

In SG I described what rocks, trees, snow felt and smelled like and readers experienced the Isle of Skye.

If you write about details (eg describe eyes) readers will still see the whole. (ie face) Reader will fill in. (Cheshire cat’s floating grin – hard to imagine.)

In SG I described what the hero sounded, felt like and smelled like. There’s very little visual description of him.

Concrete detail will do most of the work for you if you really focus on it and make it vivid. It’s the “active ingredient”. If the detail is real for you, it will be real for your readers. And if the detail is real for readers, they will fill in the background, and that will be real too.

Detail is the writer’s labour-saving device!


WRITING TASK 3 A memory in detail 5 mins

Think of a time when things were very good or very bad for you (or for someone else.)

Describe some small part of that experience - not the big picture (the content/the cause) but a detail (eg the weather at the time, the sounds and smells in the hospital waiting room.)

Might help to begin with “I remember…” Avoid visual description as far as possible.

6 comments:

Flowerpot said...

a great post Liz - very thought provoking - thanks!

sheepish said...

It sounds like an amazing conference, thanks for all your efforts to share it with us. Such a lot of really useful insights into the writing process.

ChrisH said...

Yes, that's a very interesting post - it's quite a step to use those techniques to connect with readers so I was particularly interested in the 'filling in the gaps' bit.

Debs said...

Very interesting, thanks.

Steve Malley said...

If I wasn't so bloody heavy with book right now, I'd totally do this exercise-- it looks fun!!

Liz Fielding said...

Oh, I'd walk into that first picture. Love a path through a garden to a lovely house. It's an opening...