It`s been a few weeks, but this post goes back to my last post about landscape. A few days after I posted last I had a chance to read an essay in The Writer`s Notebook, Craft Essays from Tin House. This particular book was recommended by Cynthia a little while back.
How appropriate that the first essay in the notebook was entitled Place, by Dorothy Allison.
“Place is not just landscape,” she states. “Place is feeling, and feeling is something the character expresses. More, it is something the writer puts on the page – articulates with deliberate purpose.”
articulates with deliberate purpose. This sentence captured the whole editorial process for me. At times, donning the editorial hat is tricky for me – it keeps falling off. I tend to get wrapped up in the story, the grip of emotions, without ensuring that every element moves the story forward. At which point, I need to go back X pages and begin again.
“I need an actual person walking the landscape, responding to it, telling me, in fact how he or she wound up there.”
“Place is emotion.”
“Place is people.”
“Place is visual detail…conditions….place requires context.”
I tend to write in close third person, except for shorts which often come out in first person. I find that writing in this way, I have a greater connection to my characters. I also prefer readings book in this pov, for the same reason of connection. When writing a description I tend to ask myself, what does my character see? I am very visual in my writing – if I cannot see it, I cannot write it. Next, and almost more important, is what does my character feel in response to what she sees? What is the reaction / response?
Allison`s essay, brought my self-posed questions to a higher level, and encapsulated all that I was trying to do on a subconscious level. Sometimes, becoming aware of these automated editorial process we each have makes everything clearer. Seeing my surroundings, something so commonplace, as powerful is new for me, and quite amazing.
“Story happens from what we put on the page and what the reader takes off the page. The reader does not always take off the page what we imagine we have put there. ”
All quotes from Dorothy Allison`s essay Place, published in The Writer`s Notebook.