Saturday, January 17, 2015

Writing a Square Peg in a Round Hole

Ugh... Ah... Er... Something about this scene doesn't quite fit, but by golly, I'm gonna make it work -- (dashes-sweat-off-furrowed-brow) -- somehow.

Have you ever done it, tried to write a square peg in a round hole? A scene that feels slightly awkward in pacing/timing/setting? A character who isn't behaving true to themselves? An action or over-reaction that doesn't quite ring true? I have, and let me tell you, it's dissatisfying. Worse yet, it's embarrassing when I leave it there and later on it slams me right in the gob, and I wonder what I was thinking.

Still don't know what I mean? How about a character who too conveniently rides in to save the day just in the nick of time? How about a bad guy in a serious novel who is so, so bad, he could double as a comic book villain instead of a 3-dimensional, flesh and blood person? How about a heroine's freak out that just seems out of proportion to the situation? Sometimes we writers put in something that isn't that bad, but we have an uncomfortable feeling about it niggling away inside us, and we leave it anyway, convincing ourselves that no one will notice, it'll work, it'll be okay. That, my friends, is writing a square peg in a round hole. And to that, I say, DON'T DO IT!

If you hear a still, small voice, maybe not the voice of God but your writer's conviction, whispering that something about this scene, this action, this character isn't spot on, then fix it. Cut it. Enhance it. Re-imagine it. 

My biggest trouble is with plausibility. They say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. That's often true. If we were to put some of the bizarre real-life coincidences that sometimes happen into a story, no reader would find it believable. As writers of creative fiction, we almost have to be more than truthful. We have to transform the unimaginable into believability. We don't have the privilege of letting our stories ring too fantastic -- unless clearly a fantasy -- and even then the characters and situations they find themselves in must adhere true to their worlds.

I write all this to urge my fellow writers to deeply examine your work from the point of view of a skeptical audience, an audience who will set your story aside on a whim, and audience whom you must play like a big fish on a light weight line with a barb-snipped hook. Hook them deeply with patience and realism in your style.

Write on!
THE LOVE COWARD - Historical Romance coming in Spring of 2015

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