Sweating the Details

Note to self: Never try to blog when your weekend is literally accounted for except for maybe three hours…

Anyway. For those who don’t know, I’m about 40% read/write in the way I process information and think. The rest breaks down to 18 kinsthetic, 2 audio (yeah, telling me things is ALWAYS worse than giving me text), and then 30 visual. Now what all that means is while most of the time my brain things in words, sometimes it thinks in pictures, usually still shots. When writing action, this is a bonus. It means I can visualize a fight and choreograph it like you would a dance, with the ability to see where each limb of the fighters is at any one time and where they’re weapons can logically move.

There are two places where this is actually more of a problem. One is world-building, shockingly. Despite all the effort and time I put into figuring out how different cultures, governments, and religions work, getting the actual details of what the cities and surrounding areas look like into words is where I fumble. I see the towns so clearly in my head, I have issues getting enough detail out early on in the story for the reader to see what they look like. At least in the first draft. Usually by the second, I’ll have better luck, but then… That’s the case for a lot of things with writing. I know novice writers think it’s a myth, but it’s true. You have to do more than one draft just for problems like this. In my case it isn’t that there is a lack of vision, it’s just sometimes it’s a picture, not words, so I struggle to get it into the story.

The second place? That would be character creation. Only there, it’s the opposite problem. I get too wordy. Yes, there is such a thing. I cringe whenever I read old fanfics of mine, for example. I get overly descriptive, and not just by using “flowery” words. (I’m still annoyed that this is considered a “mary sue indicator” on litmus tests, since…every writer in the world who writes “genre fiction” uses them. And don’t get me STARTED on this stupid “genre fiction” snobbery.) I was detailed, trying way too hard to get the same picture out of my head into the reader’s. I later realized that it was impossible to do that. I can do art, and it can be “official art” in the sense of I drew it or another artist managed to hit the nail on the head when I commissioned them, but that’s the best I could do.

Some of this comes back to me being detail obsessed. And I do mean obsessed. I know my character’s height, weight, build, hair color, eye color, histories… Hell, I sometimes know their recessive traits so I know if two dark haired characters can have a blonde kid. Even with my latest fanfic, since it’s in a world where time travel is involved, I’m paying attention to what colors are there, what personality traits are there, what ranks the ancestors have in their time periods that will affect my characters over seven hundred years later. Some of this can lead to amazing plot points, such as this one poor character who meets the mother of an ancestor he’s already met once…and then turns around and meets that same ancestor’s daughter. It can get me out of jams, where I’m wondering what the conflict between my antagonists and protagonists is.

Mostly, it’s so I don’t contradict myself. That has always been my biggest problem with books, TV series, or movies. I crave consistency. Sometimes, I can excuse it away with things about different characters, such as one being a notorious liar or lying to get out of a situation or being uneducated. But usually there is no reason for it, so I’m immediately thrown out of the suspension of disbelief because logic fail. If you hate it as a reader/watcher, it’s probably not a good idea to do it yourself. So I play Spreadsheets the Video Game, keeping all my character information, plot lines, location information, and anything else even relatively important organized.

The last little thing that contributes to it is a little bit of ego. God bless Lauren Faust, but not all of us can pull a semi-logical answer out of our butts that works. (See her comment to a question about Princess Luna’s design change.) If someone asks me a question, I want to be able to answer it. Nay, even be happy to answer it. I do so much research for anything I write, be it fanfiction or original work, especially when it comes to historical events, geography, and even culture of places or times. I don’t want to feed bad tropes and stereotypes or present information that is largely incorrect. Doing that causes nothing but the continuation of ignorance and in some cases hurtful feelings from people I don’t want to offend just because of my personality.

This isn’t to say I don’t make mistakes. Nobody can know everything. My big blind spot is Africa, for an example. I’ve got at least rough, general ideas for everywhere else, excluding South America where I have a few specific places I can do things, and a fancy piece of paper that says I’ve got a well-rounded education where I refused to specialize so I got a decent smattering of real knowledge and books about those places. But I don’t write Africa. Even a new character who is from a Francophone African country didn’t stay in the country long enough for me to do more than make a few notes about how she should act from what I’ve found about the culture. I know my boundaries, at least for now.

I guess what the point of this whole mess of a post is… Know your details. That’s great, and amazing, and totally what you should be doing. But I’ve learned that in some areas I need to work on conveying those details, and in others I just need to hold back and let the reader fill in the rest.

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About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...) View all posts by Rebecca M. Horner

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