Monday, February 11, 2008

A Sense of Proportion

A Sense of Proportion

I include the picture of myself, a little bit older than Trish,
not to copy her idea but because I was struck by the similarities. While it may sound trite, I find we all share so much!

And considering our similarities, from the pictures we posed for as children to our tastes in books and chocolate (I actually don’t have a clue if my fellow Titlers have the same taste in chocolate, I just assumed:), my thoughts jumped to the news this past week. Tornadoes touching down seemingly out of nowhere, definitely at random, children shooting other children, and, in our local news, two young men from the best of families sentenced to ten years in adult prison. The last hit me particularly hard since my own son is a freshman in high school.
He’s 14 to their 16, but two years is not a large gap to a parent. Their families didn’t sound so different from our own.

Since we do share so many similarities, it’s the differences that stand out. I’m reading three books on writing techniques right now (yes, I know that’s different, but each has its own time and place--one is read at my daughter’s swim practices, etc.) and several of them mentioned a sense of proportion. If a character spends a lot of time on your pages, he must be important. If a character does a number of things that aren’t so nice, he must be the villain.

This doesn’t apply just to characters. If a setting is described in detail, if the characters spend a great deal of time there, the setting must be important. The setting or characters allotted so much time must be important, not just to the author because she loves the mountains and kids, but because THIS setting and THIS character are crucial to the plot. One other piece of advice I picked up, and I’m going to use very soon, is that this setting and this character might be important for a very different reason than you’ve led the reader to believe. A mystery will have more punch if the villain is not the only one doing mean things, or if the REAL villain is not the one doing mean things all along. But, we have spent a lot of time with the villain/hero, we just didn’t know why.

So, the lesson I’ve learned and which may or may not be helpful to you, is keep a sense of proportion. In life and in our writing. Appreciate that, when your son brings home a D in Biology, he didn’t rob a Food Lion and he did come home. A sense of proportion lies in knowing where to put our time and our word count--where they NEED to be.


Mel Hiers said...

Fantastic post, Lex! It's all about balance, isn't it? And keeping things in perspective. I think we forget about that as we work.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Whenever I find myself blowing something out of proportion, like I get upset when it starts snowing when I have a million errands, I deliberately blow the situation up higher: Mother Nature did this on purpose just to mess with my head. And then I laugh. Sounds crazy, but taking something to the absurd level makes me see I'm being silly. It helps me laugh at the situation, then calm down, then figure out what really needs to get done. I use this same trick when I feel stressed to produce with my writing--blow it all out of proportion then get back to reality. This little trick helps to keep me in check. :)

Lexie O'Neill said...

Dear Anitra and Mel,
Thanks for your responses! And, Anitra, I do the same thing...I think how about how much worse things could be...and find gratitude that I'm not there--yet!

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, wonderful post, and so true about keeping everything in proportion. I'm famous sometimes for letting something be bigger than it actually is, then I do what you suggest. Hey, the important thing is your child came home, not that they are perfect at everything in life. It's more important that I get to kiss and woggle my doggies, than the bad stuff life doles out. I think giving and receiving love is the great equalizer.
Lexie, is that beautiful red hair I see, or a tricky cast to the photograph?
Gosh, you and Trish do resemble each other -- and only in the most beautiful way.
Good trick, Anitra, I'm going to have to try that strategy out.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Sav pointed out something I noticed too, that you and Trish look so similar--oddly I do have a childhood picture that looks very much like those two--I even have a reddish cast to my hair and a very similar type dress on. Hmmm. Sisters born of different mothers? :)

Oh, and for the record, I love chocolate. Any chocolate. Especially free chocolate. So your assumption was correct! :)

Mel Hiers said...

I forgot about the chocolate! Bad Mel! :P Lexie, you were right on as far as I'm concerned. I'm a chocoholic from way back.

Savanna, I can't say how much I love the word woggle!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Topical subject for me at the moment--keeping a sense of proportion and balance in my life. Everything is dominated by AT at the moment and it's easy to let it take over. So I've spent the last week decorating house--now that's taken over my life LOL.

If I find something bad is getting under my skin and out of proportion, I always ask myself if in six months time it will matter. If it won't, why let it worry me now. Guaranteed to banish 99% of worries!

Lexie O'Neill said...

This is fun! Yes, I do have a reddish cast to my hair and if I'd been able to scan in my first grade picture, the resemblance would have been even stronger. Chocolate, love it...I even joke with my students that you know, a little chocolate goes a long way when I'm grading. :) I started toning that down when, on the way to an exam, a guy pulled out his wallet and asked how much the chocolate would cost...
Sisters born of a different mother...I love it.
Have a great week all...and Helen, I know what you mean about AT, I tried so hard and then switched to Amazon, but I'm going to go take a bubble bath now!

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Oh Lex, when all else gets out of proportion an indulgent bubble bath puts things right into perspective!

Just be sure to have chocolate by the side and a good book! :)