Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Rerun: Capturing the Elusive

Post by Jenny

I have a hummingbird feeder hanging outside my front window. Every August, I typically have one or two regular customers. This year, though, no such luck. I heard the birds buzzing to and fro, so I knew they had returned. But why were they giving me the brush off?

I wondered if maybe a different feeder would help. The old one was impossible to clean, anyway. So I bought a new one, filled it with fresh, homemade nectar, and hung it in the same spot. The next morning, I thoughtlessly threw back the curtain, and, lo and behold, there was the hummingbird. For one split-second, he hung above the feeder, shimmering like an ornament. Then he zoomed off. As far as I can tell, the little sucker hasn’t been back. (But I have no shortage of sugar-loving wasps.)

 I’m pretty sure my abrupt opening of the curtain scared the bird away for good.  Hummingbird season in my part of town is short, and I’m disappointed that I’ll have to wait another year to try again. But it got me thinking about how creative-types try to capture the elusive. Wildlife photographers sit in blinds for hours waiting for the blink-and-you-miss-it shot. Actors rehearse, balancing craft and chemistry until their performances become much more than merely ‘playing a part.’ 

Writers capture the elusive, too, in a variety of forms—an astoundingly unique plot twist, for example. Spot-on dialogue. A succinctly evocative descriptive passage. On the rare occasion, when I sit down to write, the elusive is not so elusive. My characters go above and beyond, surprising me with their inventiveness. The completed pages pile up. I am, as the athletes say, in the zone.

Other times, it all flies out the window. Every paragraph is work. My characters are dull and two-dimensional. Their dialogue stinks. They couldn’t care less about making my life easy, and the more I nag them, the more they resist. The farther I toss out that net, the wider they disperse.

So, what’s the cure, what coaxes the elusive near enough to grab? Patience…give it time. Perseverance…don’t give up. Progress…keep the forward momentum going, even if it means switching to another project.  Preparation…set an inviting table, and see who shows up.

How do you capture the elusive in your writing?


Patricia Stoltey said...

I have to pretend nothing matters.

Can't think of the next scene in my mystery? Can't decide on the murder weapon? It doesn't matter. I go out to the garden to pull weeds or to the kitchen to bake muffins. The elusive gets so annoyed it comes and taps me on the shoulder, begging for another chance.

jnana said...

So beautifully written. I love how you linked the incident to the lessons behind it.

Maggie said...

Love this post, Jenny.

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