Last updated on September 23, 2011
Did you ever get into one of those writing zones where you’re only half-aware that you’re even writing? The words come so fast, and (seemingly) so perfect that you can’t really do anything besides just hang on for dear life and surf the wave.
Yeah, I love those times, too. They don’t come as often as I’d like, but when they do, I ride ’em ’til the wheels fall off.
The actual words I get out of these kinds of sessions often amount to little more than dialogue. Granted, it’s usually good stuff–full of emotion, pathos, and clever humor (even if it is my unique brand of off-the-wall). What it’s not full of (and this is where a good dose of Writer’s Humility) is rich sensory description. While I’m writing it, I’m all but experiencing it (from multiple camera angles, no less). But my hands only move so fast and there are only so many words that can get out.
In the past, when going through revisions of these scenes, I’ve used a little bit of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to put myself back into “the moment” with the goal of retrieving the rest of the sensory information present in the scene that I didn’t get the first time. Because even when I read the (often sparse) dialogue of the scene afterwards, I’m still dragged back into that sensory place of where I was while writing it. But anybody else who’s reading the scene doesn’t have that same strong sense-memory. My job as a writer is to present to them that sense-memory with rich description and sensory immersion.
I can’t put you inside my head while rolling back time so that you can experience what I did as I wrote a particularly powerful scene. What I can do, though, is put you in my characters’ heads. You notice what they notice, see what they see, taste what they taste, and hear the music they’re dancing to. As a result, you’re more likely to get into a space as a reader where you can feel what they feel and how they feel, and care about them. Which, yeah, is kinda the point. I want you to care about the characters.
It’s the reason why we read.