I have an important housekeeping issue to announce, but first…
You know how I’ve been talking about using real life experience to help guide your writing?
When I was reading Nowhere To Run by CJ Box, there’s a scene where Joe Picket (the MC) gets shot in the leg with an arrow, the head of which was made using flint in the traditional way. The character’s reaction was almost laissez-faire.
I found it hard to believe. So I wondered what it really would feel like to get shot. I did some research (about 5 minutes of useless Youtubing) then gave it up.
I figured I would just follow CJ Box’s lead if any of my characters got shot with a rock tied to a stick.
Today I went for a run in the woods. Part of my training for an upcoming 100 mile race in August.
Then I tripped over an exposed root and fell.
When I stood up I noticed something dark embedded in my left hand. I squeezed my palm, pinched the black thing with my right fingers, and pulled.
Turns out, it was an arrow-shaped rock, half an inch long that had punctured my hand.
Surprisingly, I felt nothing. No pain. No anxiety. It was all very laissez-faire.
I ran the 6 miles back to my house. Tomorrow, I’ll probably go get some stitches (you can pull back the flap of skin and see the little yellow balls of palm fat half an inch into my hand).
Isn’t research awesome!
WHAT I DID TODAY
Finished reading and studying The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. No wonder they made that series into a TV show. That book was written for TV.
Tomorrow, I’ll start in on James Lee Burke’s Rain God. Then I think that’ll be all the genre research I do for now. I need to get writing and producing work, getting feedback from actual readers etc. No point in getting bogged down in research until I know it’s gonna pay off.
Still getting emails about people missing my emails to them.
Here’s what we’ll do:
From now on, if you miss an email, go here:
You can access that same page by going to the top navigation bar of my homepage at MikeShreeve.com
At the end of every email moving forward I’ll leave that link for reference.
TODAY’S RANT/THOUGHT/WORD DUMP
Please go watch this video:
Think about what I said in yesterday’s email about “showing” and not “telling”.
Also think about emotional story telling.
Consider how much of the story you understand even though you receive ZERO exposition.
Consider how much you know about the characters, the man and the woman, even though they exchange less than a handful of lines of dialogue. You see only their actions towards one another.
Consider your own emotional reaction as you view it. Be mindful of the cues that are giving you this reaction.
I cry every time that I watch this video. You might hate it.
Consider that. Why do you feel the way you feel?
Too many people (writers or not) think that their feelings are facts. They are not. Feelings are fluid, they change, and they are always triggered by something else.
They are subjective.
Understanding your own feelings and emotions will allow you to manipulate those same reactions in others.
Watch that video. Experience. Then figure out what happened inside of you, and in the video that caused it.
There’s a little moment that I really loved that has helped me to write internal emotions without “telling” to the point of removing the reader from the story:
At the 2:24 mark, the main character looks down at his arm. Then he looks up at the red light coming from above. Confusion on his face.
Two actions: Looking down, then looking up.
And we have a powerful internal emotional moment where we understand (as the viewer) that he is feeling the presence of his now-dead lover.
Expressed in two actions.
And we as the viewer have our own emotional response. For me, I cry every time. Probably because of things from my own past.
Understand that your reader isn’t a blank canvas. They are people with complex emotional pasts.
When you step out of the way, and simply show your characters reacting and acting, your reader will overlay their own emotional context to the scene. And because it will be their own emotional tapestry that fills in the blurred edges, it will be rich and meaningful in their eyes (because it will be about them).
That is how you write powerful work.
Review my last few emails again for strategies on how to pull that off more frequently in your own writing.
Mike “Wounded Palm” Shreeve