Friday, October 14, 2011
Just A Plain Old Writing Story. No Links. No Pitch. No Motives.
I apologize for the ridiculous photo in what will be, a hope, a non-ridiculous post. It's there to make a point: That this is how I think I look. That this is how I see myself. Laughing, with my glasses on. (See, when your glasses are on you can see how freaking funny the world is.)
Anyway, all of us have an idea of what our essential selves are like. But as writers, it's critical to also have an understanding of what our essential voice is like. Every agent and publisher tosses that word around liberally. A great voice is like porn: they know it when they see it. Yet it's the thing hardest to learn or to teach.
So how do you develop it? The best writing advice I've received over the years came not from writing teachers, but yoga and dance teachers. "Find your pose, not mine, not your neighbor's," she whispered as we flowed, flexed, strained. "Move like yourself."
Isn't that the best advice? To move like yourself? To be inspired by others, but to find your version of movement?
A few years later, in a jazz dance class, my teacher stopped me mid-leap. (Okay, it was more of a leap-ette.) "Kelly," he said, "use all your height, your length. When you are making a gesture, make it all the way down to your fingertips. Finish it!" (Thank you Bruno Tognoli!)
That's what I think when I read a manuscript or book that's all plot, all motion. Why didn't the writer finish it, follow the line all the way? (Actually, what I think is: Would it have killed you to take a few more weeks and write some sentences in here that I might enjoy?)
And last week, in a challenging yoga pose that required both balance and flexibility, when I thought I couldn't go on one second longer, the teacher said: "Can you slither in a little deeper?"
When I find myself skating the surface of a character, not allowing him the full range of emotion and heart, I have to remind myself to just slither in under his skin. Go a little deeper. Finish the gesture. Move like yourself.