Monday, February 27, 2006


That's a word I've been hearing a lot. "Your first chapter is powerful." "Powerful words." "Powerful emotion." "Powerful scene."


And I'm thankful for the buts, don't get me wrong. I'm so glad to hear the buts because frankly there must be a reason that I'm not getting any takers on my manuscript and it sure isn't because it is powerful. Because I would consider powerful a compliment. Or am I misreading the word? Is it what people say when they don't want to say "this is crap?"

Powerful stuff dear, would you burn dinner tomorrow also?

I may have a new catch phrase. Beware of me if I say something you did is powerful stuff. :-)

No, powerful is what I was going for. I'm glad I succeeded. I just wish I were better at not writing passive, not using so many adverbs, giving facial description, giving the feel of the room. Because if I can be crummy at all that and still be powerful, imagine what I can someday be.

But here's the thing. When I read, I insert the story into my life experiences. If you tell me they are in an apartment it will be my husband's apartment our sophomore year in college. If you are in a generic house it will always be the house my cousins lived in in the 80s. If you are in an old house or say, a castle like in Siri Mitchell's Chateau of Echoes, you can try and try to describe it to me, but I will never be anywhere else except the old Victorian farmhouse I lived in when I lived in Chapman, Kansas (those were the days). One more. In The Trouble with Lacy Brown, they were in a (I think) West Texas cow town. She tried to describe the storefronts to me but what did I see? Downtown (if you can call it that) Hillsboro, Kansas. Because Hillsboro folks are friendly, open, and slightly behind the times (not in fashion, but in trust and in godly living--kudos to them!). Describe away but it is wasted on me. And I write from that perception. My crit group wants everything painted for them. Blank canvas, fill it. They can go on for three pages describing a creek. It is a beautifully described creek. I want to go visit. Why? Because it is the Colorado river that crosses in front of the cabins we stayed in when I was a child.

Sorry folks.

Emotion I can do. I have a lot of it. Scenery, I'm working on it.

1 comment:

Mirtika said...

I'm not great with scenery, either. But then, I don't like a lot of scenic description, anyway. And after years of reading romance, where every physical attribute is glorified ad infinitum, I was writing my first stories with a lot of physical description (for my college classes). The award winning, literary fiction (mostly) writers would always say, "You know, you don't need physical description unless there is a reason for it. You can let people picture the character's physical aspects from very little information."

I realize now that the 25 pages I submitted for the Genesis has NO physical description of the heroine (no reason for their to be, since two scenes are in HER pov and the other is in HIS pov and he's not with her). In fact, aside from clothing and hair color, there isn't much physical description at all.

And, btw, adverbs are our friends. They serve a lovely purpose when used well. :) One of my favorite novels (and one that is highly beloved and highly praised) is NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman (and I originally wanted to write a Christian fantasy equivalent to it, though with much, much, much less talent and imagination), and it's chock-a-block with adverbs of the -ly bent.

I refuse to become fearful of the -ly adverb. It's a legitimate language spice.

And some passive is nice. I once read a short story where you could tell the author took that "no passive" construction rule seriously. He used muscular verbs and straightforward construction...and I was mentally EXHAUSTED. A couple of other classmates said the same thing. TIRING.

Passive gives us a rest now and then. It's also part of setting a particular mood, when needed.

Fear not the passive in moderation.