Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Turning Up The Heat

by Ronda Simmons

There are times for every writer when the work gets bogged down and writing becomes a chore.

We've all been there, but how do we move past it? "Go where the heat is." These are words of wisdom from Trai Cartwright (she'll be at the NCW conference, by the way) and useful advice when you don't know how to get yourself out of the mire.

Has your writing gotten cold and dreary?

You must write what excites you. If you are bored with your writing, you cannot expect anything except boredom from your readers. We all know that a bored reader is a former reader and quite unlikely to be a repeat reader.

A perfect example comes from the Advanced Screenwriting class Trai is teaching on Sundays at Wolverine Letterpress and Publick House.  One of the students, an experienced playwright, named Barb, could not decide which of her current works in progress would be best suited as a workshop exercise for the class.

Trai asked her to read both log lines. The first one was a quirky tale about three old women surviving a natural disaster together. I thought it sounded cute and I looked forward to reading it until she read the logline for the second one, a dystopian saga of intrigue, betrayal, coming of age and redemption.

This was a story itching to be told and one I couldn't wait to dig into it. In fact, the entire class straightened up as Barb described the horrific world of her imagination. Her voice grew stronger and louder, her eyes sparkled, her cheeks got pink.

She had found the heat.

Image result for heat
Hot enough for ya?
And so it is for all of us. Bored with writing? Maybe it isn't you, maybe it's your story. I'm not suggesting that you abandon your project when it feels lukewarm. I am saying, however, that when it gets too tedious, think about what you can do to turn up the heat.

Have you been too soft on your hero? Raise the stakes. Is your antagonist too predictable? Provide backstory that will warm us up to your villain. Does changing the setting, the genre, the point of view, or the time period of your story make it more intriguing, more interesting, hotter?

For more on finding the heat, check out these websites:

Writing About LOVE—Ditch the Cliches & Turn Up the Heat in Your Romance

Enlivening Passive Characters

1 comment:

Laura Mahal said...

What an interesting concept--paying attention to the body language of your fellow screenwriter, to see what indeed caused a physical response of flushed cheeks and so forth. In this way, everyone in the room realized what project was "lighting her fire."

Maisie Dobbs, who is a fictional investigative psychologist I much admire (brought to us courtesy of author Jacqueline Winspear), often models the body language of those with whom she is working. In this way, she learns much about their state of mind, what might be weighing them down, etc.

From now on, I will remain more attentive to my own internal signals. I know that when I'm tired but letting myself work on an editing project, I'm much more likely to ruthlessly rip out entire passages. When I'm overly caffeinated, then I'm inclined to change things up. When I'm at peace, I might be best able to gauge what work really needs to be done and what I ought to leave well enough alone.

Thanks, Ronda!

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