Friday, November 2, 2012

Playing with Problem Paragraphs

We all have those passages. The description’s a bit dull or the scene’s climax doesn’t feel climatic or readers can’t visualize how she triumphs over her attackers. Many writers I work with confess that they know exactly which paragraphs don’t work. They also confess that beyond diagnosing and sighing, they’re not sure what to do. Happily, solutions exist. Many of them start with the concept of “play.”

That’s because much of the problem is psychological. Once you feel something isn’t working you might get discouraged, anxious, worried, even annoyed with yourself. Can’t you be better? Faster? Unfortunately, such responses drain the inventiveness needed to originate solutions. Variations on “play” counteract that.

v     Brainstorm “crazy” solutions. (No censorship allowed.)
v     Make it a game. (What can I learn from this?)
v     Identify what’s at stake. (Both short-term and overall.)
v     Change the source. (Turn dialogue into narrative or narration to scene.)
v     Approach from an alternate angle. (What does the antagonist think?)
v     Perfect the verbs. (Make them precise, concrete and maybe symbolic.)
v     Open yourself to possibility. (Maybe you want to add or omit?)
v     Devise a contest. (Who’s in charge here?)
v     Trim. (Less of weak writing beats more of it—every time.)
v     Laugh at your tribulations. (Or at least manage a smile!)

Tip: Use those problem paragraphs to discover new depth for your story and the craft needed to deliver it.

Here’s the thing. Your fiction should make you happy. And you’ll be neither happy nor effective if problems overwhelm protagonist and plot. 

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