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.