Monday, April 19, 2010

Yes, Detective, She Was Wearing a Purple Wig

I spent a portion of the weekend revising chapters that my writing group critiqued last week. I was a little put off that one member of the group said a chapter was unpolished but a good first draft. What?! Well, she was right. It struck me that handing over pages for review is like submitting a police report. I provide the details as I see them but then the detective’s job is to ask more questions.

What color was the car? Was the car still running? Who else was in the store? What was she wearing? Could you tell us more about her surroundings? When X was standing in the hallway, where was Y?

The funny thing is that one member of my group is actually a police detective AND a damn fine writer. So her questions probe for details my mind has brushed past in order to get the story on paper. At times, I rush through the telling and need someone to slow me down and ask those questions that allow me to fully develop scenes and characters, to paint a picture that others can see as clearly as I do.

It also struck me that everyone – not just writers – can benefit from slowing down. When your spouse or significant other asks you to describe your day, do you rush through it perhaps missing those details that are most important to convey?

When you describe a movie, do you fall back on clich├ęs like “lots of action” or “too much gore” instead of describing how the purple-haired, 12-year-old Hit Girl bounded through the narrow hallway like an acrobat, climbing the walls at times as she stabbed one bad guy after the other, finally landing on top of the last guy’s shoulders and stabbing him through the top of the head.

I’m just saying that life is in the details.


  1. "It struck me that handing over pages for review is like submitting a police report."

    Ain't that the truth, sister!

    I'm new to your blog & looking forward to reading more here. Write on!!

  2. Mandy,

    I'm so glad you're realizing these things about your writing. It's probably good to have that kind of feedback.

    I am a writer in Mancos...and I've come to a standstill on my writing. I occasionally write in my blog, my memoirs, but even that feels stilted and weird. I have a novel started, and have even worked on some short stories, but I don't have the DESIRE to get back to them.

    Have you experienced that? Has anybody out there? What do you suggest I do?? Is it my life circumstances that has me pulling into myself and not wanting to write about it??

    Or is it just getting my butt in the chair and DOING it??


  3. Jeanne,
    I ask myself those same questions! I wish there was a Writer's Viagra that helped with that desire part. ;0
    I've felt increasingly pulled into myself and not as passionate about my writing. Today (one of my designated writing days), I've washed a load of clothes, went to the gym, picked up my new eyeglasses and did about an hour's worth of work for my paying job. lately, my writers' group has met only intermittently and I know that has let out the wind in my sails as well.
    Let's just keep supporting each other and promising to write as much as we can -- whether we *feel* like it or not!