Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Quote of the Day


Today's quote is from John Cheever:

For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of battle.

But how to do this?  I run to the same, tired phrases over and over.  I use one cliche after another, and then kick myself because I'm not expressing the scene I imagine in my head.  It seems all the original descriptions have been used, and I'm left with drivel.

I must find a way to make the rain (which we've all felt running down our faces) feel as new and fresh and alive as it does when I picture the scene in my mind.

Maybe the secret is to stop writing the story--instead, let the characters tell it.  It's not me editorializing about what the weather is like.  It's my character expressing what's happening in the setting.

There's a big difference between Gene Kelly joyfully Singin' in the Rain, and the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers.  Rain can be a symbol of happiness or despair, depending on what the characters are going through at the time.

I think that's it.  Keep my nose out of the story and let the characters tell their own story.  Next time I find myself running to the thesaurus looking for another way to say "rain," I'll try to stop, and instead think of how my character feels about it.  Let her tell me how she feels about the raindrops falling down her cheeks, and go on from there.

4 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

Great quote, Barb!

So true about letting the characters show their feelings about the rain--or whatever the setting. Because that gives another glimpse into their personality and sharing their life experiences.

And rain seems like such an appropriate example for those of us in western Oregon. But at least the rain has been warmer the last few days. :)

Paty Jager said...

Good Quote!

I agree put yourself into your character and then show what they feel and think. It should be their perspective not yours. You may be amazed at the way they see it. Using their vocabulary and experiences it will be different than your own thoughts.

Sarah Raplee said...

I absolutely agree! This pertains to the details we write as well. For example, Joanna may go into the garage with Winnie and Reba, but chances are they won't notice the same details.

Joanna, who is secretly looking for a hidden key, is dismayed by all the drawers and cupboards.

Winnie, who collects antique gardening trowels and hates spiders, will shiver with dread as she sorts through old, web-covered tools.

And Reba, who's been depressed and was dragged along to get her out of the house, may complain about the the temperature, lighting, and dirt - or she may ignore everything.

Somewhere I heard these called 'telling details', because they serve multiple functions in the stoytelling.

Bethany Mason said...

An interesting idea - have never thought of it in that way though I have often had the same problem of feeling like every phrase has already been used. Perhaps I'll remember to think like my character next time I try and describe something.