1. Physical Descriptions
I have a very clear idea of what my characters look like, and while I might drop a few lines of description near their introduction, odds are, that’s the last time I’ll mention their physical appearance. This is due in part to the fact that it honestly doesn’t occur to me to keep bringing up their black hair and azure eyes, or whatever disgusting way you can think of to say blue without actually saying “blue”. The other part is that I’m afraid of straying into the territory of over-describing my character’s’ physical appearance. After all, I’m not writing a bodice ripping romance with Fabio on the cover.
I’m also terrible at writing setting descriptions. It’s hard for me to find a balance between too much and not enough. Most of the time, the description sounds purple and it always sounds clunky. I want to be one of those writers who might give two lines of description–just enough to jumpstart the reader’s imagination and then let it do the rest. But every time I try that, I always end up being afraid that I’m being too vague. I can’t settle.
2. Action Scenes
Every time I come up on writing an action scene, I freeze. There are just so many conflicting strategies and tips.
Write short sentences to make the pace seem faster.
Write long sentences to make the action flow and to keep the reader from coming to a full stop at every period.
Describe every move made by a character.
Describe vague moves and focus on the emotion of the action.
Ugh, I can’t keep them straight. I’ve played around with all of those, but I can’t seem to find anything that really works. It doesn’t help that I happen to be completely tone-deaf when it comes to writing action scenes. I know a good action scene when I read it, but looking back over my own and trying to judge and edit them? God, I am hopeless.
There are a few resources that have helped me out, like this one. But only thing I’ve found that helped me a lot is Action! By Ian Thomas Healy. He takes the stance that you need to write action scenes like they do in film, mainly because in the 21st century we’re writing for a movie-first audience. He even breaks down the fight scene’s components and labels them like they would be labeled in a movie script. That new vocab was handy.
The most useful part of his book is an engagement set-up worksheet he describes in the book. There was a link to a website, but the last time I tried, something was funnky with his website and I was never able to find the worksheet he himself made. However, I was able to make my own and tweak it to work for me. Planning it out ahead of time definitely made the actual writing easier, even if the planning process was still painful.
3. Strong Emotions
The little emotions–the grace notes you hit on your way to something else, the little feelings that build up to the big ones, the emotions people feel and then repress two seconds later–I own those. (At least, I think I do. Like I said, sometimes I’m a bit tone-deaf when I read my own work.)
The big, strong, climactic emotions? I am super lame when it comes to those. A few years ago I had a beta reader looking over a project. There was a particular exchange between my hero and the villain and I thought it was great, I really did. But when my beta got to that section, she said she literally laughed out loud at it. So, yeah, tone-deaf, but also now I have no confidence at all in writing the big, broad strokes emotional stuff. Every time I go to write a big moment, it falls flat, like… Well, like this:
I think another contributing factor could be that I always love the rising action sections of stories way more than any other section. I’m the most into a story when the characters have some information about whatever plot is afoot, but it’s just enough info to show just how much they don’t know. I like the mystery of it. The intrigue. Then when all the mysteries are solved and the characters are headed off to the climax, I feel a bit… not disappointed, but certainly less interested. The only thing I like about the climaxes usually is the big emotional payoff that you get but, as this point is trying to prove, I can’t write them!
Based on points 2 and 3, we all should have seen this coming. I can plot a climax and an ending. I can work all the little plot threads together and tie everything up neatly. But just because it’s all wrapped up, does not mean there’s a payoff. You need emotion and excitement for that, and I’ve just spent several hundred words describing how terrible I am at those two things.
Because of the type of stuff I usually write, my climaxes tend to involve action, and every climax should have some strong emotions. So this is a serious struggle for me.
Wow, that was a downer. Maybe my next post will be Things I DO Write Well, just to give me a confidence boost.
Anyway, I’d love to hear any tips and tricks for my writing weaknesses, or maybe we can even commiserate about an area of writing you’re not confident in!
Thanks for reading!