A writer sits, hunched over her keyboard, fingers flying. The muse is soaring and the emotion is swelling. Tears slip down her cheeks and her body shakes as she finishes off the most emotional scene in her story. Wow. That was the best scene she’d ever written.
Well, um, er, not exactly. Just because we feel the emotion behind our scenes doesn’t always mean it’s coming across in our readers. In our minds our story and characters are fully formed but putting that emotion into words is a whole ‘nother story.
Sometimes, as humans, we see what we want to see.
For example, this past weekend, I waited under an overpass for my friends, who drive a blue Subaru. I was going to follow them to my daughter’s soccer game. I didn’t want to get lost.
I sat, anxious, ready to go. I’m the coach, so arriving late wouldn’t be good. I kinda knew how to get there, but I wanted to be safe.
And then the blue Subaru passed and a man with dark hair waved. Woo hoo. We were off.
My daughter: “That doesn’t look like a Subaru, Mom.”
Me: “I know. I never realized how much a Subaru looks like a mini-van.”
On the highway, he passed the exit I thought he was going to get off. I thought, He must know a different way, which is totally possible because that’s how bad my sense of direction is.
Then he got off an exit and pulled into McDonalds. I thought, Jeez, doesn’t he know we’re barely going to get there on time?
My daughter: “Mom, their car has a Massachusetts license plate.” (We live in New Hampshire.)
Me: What? No way. Impossible.
I pulled up and waited.
Me: Quick, look. Is that Mr. Jackson? (changed name to protect the innocent)
My heart dropped as I looked closer. It was a woman with short dark hair, driving a min-van.
Me: “But she waved at me! The car is blue!”
I whipped out and pushed the speed limit the whole way to the game. And for the record, I would have gotten there right on time, except a landmark had changed its name so I passed the right road and got lost in another city. (But that’s a whole ‘nother story too.)
I saw what I wanted to see, even though the clues were there.
And it can happen in our writing too.
Have you ever convinced yourself of something that wasn’t really there? You can lie to make me feel better. Please.
Sure, yeah. Do it all the time.
So true about the emotions. We can write a scene we assume is dripping with emotion only to find out our beta readers/CP weren’t touched by it the same way we were. But that’s because we didn’t get them inside the character’s head as well as we should have.
As for your question, Laura. Yes. That’s happens to me all the time. 😉
I was so nervous for you reading this…I hate getting lost and running late. And I’m sure I would have done the same thing.
As for the writing, Beta readers are so important for this, especially since you don’t want to give in to the temptation to over- write/explain a scene that could work as is.
I’m always almost painfully aware of this. Whenever I write an emotional scene (where I’ve felt the emotion) i always give it time to rest before going back and making sure the words and description really convey what I want to reader to experience. Because it’s true- just because I’m feeling it, doesn’t mean its there. But it’s not just the scene- You gotta make sure the reader has gotten to the point where they care enough about the characters as well. Great post!
It’s easy to think that the reader knows what you’re saying, because to you it’s obvious. Funny story. Hope the soccer game went well.
Thanks everyone! I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets lost. It’s just not fun. Esp. since I don’t have a cell phone or gps…yet. (You can pretend I didn’t just admit that.)
And yes, finding the line between over explaining and explaining just enough is so hard!!! I tend to under write and under explain, but I’m working on it!
Ha, I’m glad that you got to the soccer game on time!
I agree with Jennifer about the importance of Beta readers. Sometimes we are just too close and we see what we want to see — and sometimes what we see doesn’t exist!
Oh my, I forgot all about writing while reading the getting lost story. I have NO sense of direction either. In fact, I need to take a dry run to an event location so that when I have four people in my van this weekend, I can find the joint.
This story was a great way to explain how we get lost in our own worlds. I have the same problem with under-explaining, more out of fear of over-explaining than anything else, and have learned to read scenes again. I discovered that the emotion is usually lost when I try to be too conservative with my writing, along with my voice.
Also, you aren’t the only person whose been lost…;p
Been there in writing and in real life as well. We really need to be careful of this, don’t we?
Oh my gosh, what a story! I do this ALL the time. Either that or I’ll NOT see what’s there. My husband and I will be driving up the canyon to our home and I’ll say, “Has that house always been there?” Hubby: “Um, yes, since the day we bought our property.” Oh.
Just yesterday I envisioned my scene in my head, but I had trouble coming up with the perfect words to get my message across. I used not-so-perfect words instead, knowing my first draft will not be perfect. I spiffy it up on round two.
One of my biggest problems is assuming that the reader has the same vision of what is going on as I do. I re-wrote my very first chapter about ten times before I figured out that I had to look outside of my own interpretation and put myself in the place of the reader.