Friday, August 19, 2011

No Really. Literally.

A page from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
I learn so many cool things from my CPs about writing. Like one of the first lessons they taught me was that when you're writing in a genre that bends reality (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal), you pretty much forfeit your right to metaphor.

I'm joking. Sort of.

Let me show you what I mean.

From my last WIP:

"She nods, root beer candied eyes fluttering shut."

This sentence is in reference to my Seer character, but no--her eyes are not made out of root beer candy, as delicious as that would be. This is me trying to be poetic. Unfortunately, more than one person thought it might be literal since there are other unbelievable things in my story. A later draft had "root beer colored eyes" and then I think I ended up getting rid of the imagery altogether and going with something simple like "Her eyes fluttered shut."

But even though I've already learned this lesson once, I still have to be reminded.

From my current WIP:

"She'd had no problem being invisible as a high school senior. Now, with one month left in her first post-graduation summer, she half-expected the invisibility to become permanent. But he saw her."

I posted this in the WriteOnCon forums and had the gall to be surprised when people said, "Oh, cool! She's invisible? Why can he see her?" They had lots of great suggestions for how I could demonstrate her invisibility, like when she was getting onto the plane, she could completely bypass the poor visible people getting pat-downs. Very clever ideas. I was half-tempted to run with it.

But she's not invisible. She's just shy.

Why am I posting these embarrassing examples of my world-building fails? 

I'm hoping they'll help somebody out there who's a quicker study than me. Someone who will remember that you can't take anything for granted when you're introducing readers to your brand new version of reality. 

They know nothing about your world until you tell them. Pigs could fly. Elephants could be psychic. (Why am I only giving examples of animals here?) Angels could be ice elementals who collect souls for sport.

For all your reader knows, the sun really could be a pat of butter melting into the horizon!!

So you may want to do what I plan to do from now on and reread your manuscript with an eye for poetry that could be taken too literally. Because the last thing you want is somebody thinking your romantic lead's eyes really do hold the world inside.

Now that WriteOnCon has ended, what are your new writing goals?


p.s. I just joined a Blog Chain and today's my day to talk about Self-Publishing. I'd love to hear your point of view over there.

7 comments:

  1. Hahahah love the "you forfeit your right to metaphor" thing. SO true. Because I thought that girl was invisible too. (Probably also bc my WIP is about kids with superpowers.)

    I'm 20K into the first, ugly, rough draft of my WiP. I have a week and a half till I go back to work (college campus) and my kids are going to be in daycare FULL TIME during that time. So my goal is to finish the roughest of drafts. With no kids at home, 5K a day should be no problem, right?

    (WriteOnCon totally knocked my socks off. So great to see Operation Awesome represented over htere.)

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  2. Personally, I didn't think she was invisible at all. That might be because I already know the story, but it also might be because that was some of my experience in high school :) It made perfect sense to me.

    But I know what you mean. In my query, I have a line saying "all three men succeed in capturing her heart". I didn't even think this could be taken literally, but since my story is about magic, I had people asking if they used a spell on her. As you know, it's very much the other way around (even though it's unintentional ;p). I'm having trouble rewriting it.

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  3. Just because a reader assumes literal invisibility from an independent snip doesn't mean that someone reading the entire book would think the same. Metaphor is about context; if what you post doesn't contain that context, then it's not a fault of the metaphor.

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  4. That is so true! And I love the pad of butter imagery lol. This is exactly why we need trusty CPs to pick out these areas and say, "Um ... huh?" My stories would be garbage without my CPs.

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  5. Ha ha! You had me cracking up, but mainly at myself. I could write a book about my world building faux pas. I'll never forget the time I wrote "Death is part of life" (cliche though that is). A friend quipped, "Isn't death the end of a life?" We laughed about that. But that was me writing with only half a mind on clarity.

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  6. Your blog, and really the whole string here, is priceless and delectable. I'm still chuckling. I love writers. I am not a writer myself, unless, work documents count ~ Not allowed metaphors there either. I guess I'm just a stalker on these pages, but I love to listen to the chatter and the support you give one another makes my heart glow. No really.

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  7. LOL your story about the forums cracks me up. Sometimes it is hard to read a page or 5 without any context of the story.

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