John and I met Dylan Brody in our Van Nuys days when our dogs introduced us at the dog park. You may be familiar with Dylan: he's a recurring guest on John Rabe's Off Ramp on KPCC, and he regularly performs live in the Los Angeles area and around the country (check his website for his schedule). Dylan's Modern Depression Guidebook is available on Amazon. His promo video for the Guidebook made me laugh out loud. Please welcome today's guest author, Dylan Brody.
At some point as you put together your novel you’ll get stuck. It happens to everyone. When it happens imagine yourself inside the scene or directly involved in the action and pay attention to things that didn’t seem important until you put your focus on them.
Are there sounds you or your characters hear that you hadn’t noticed before? A smell in the air? What are the small things the characters do with their hands?
As you begin to flesh out these tiny details, you will find they serve you in larger ways. If Deloris twists a strand of hair around her finger as she thinks, the same gesture may be used later to let us in on the fact that she’s thinking without telling us. If Givenchy Gentlemen hangs in the air when Paul arrives on the scene, dark-haired and arrogant, we may know that a deception is in place when the scent of Givenchy Gentlemen accompanies a dark-haired, arrogant man who introduces himself as Frederick.
The more you allow yourself to sink into the reality you create, to take in the details and report on them, the more life the story takes on for you and the more its own natural path reveals itself.
Many writing teachers give the instruction to show, rather than tell. This cannot be accomplished, though, until you begin to see, rather than invent. The farther you sink into the imagined reality of the world you seek to reveal, the more you will be able to relate your experience there through the senses rather than through exposition. It is one thing to say that a scene takes place in a doll shop. It is quite another to place dolls, porcelain and bright-eyed, in careful rows on shelves from which they can look down on arriving customers, each hoping in her inanimate heart to be taken from the musty, humid orphanage for abandoned childhood companions to a bright new home with a nursery and a Labrador. It is one thing to say that a place is dark and dusty. It is another thing entirely to watch the slow descent of motes through the single, pencil-thin shaft of sunlight that slants downward through a bullet-hole in one of the five foil-blacked windows.
Being stuck need not be an indication of writer’s block. It is merely a reminder to sink deeper, take in the details. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? See. Hear. Smell. Feel. Write.