Placeholders, Question Marks and Stuff in Brackets

If you’ve done much fiction writing, it’s probably happened to you. You’re cooking along on a story or a novel, describing things as they happen. Then all of a sudden…you hit a brick wall. It’s not that you don’t know where your story goes in story terms — it’s that you don’t know how to describe what needs to happen next. I’m not talking about plot or story structure; I’m talking about scene-building and sensual details.

Let me give you an example. I recently wrote a novel that required me to know what it looked like, felt like and smelled like in about 40 different locations — on boats of one size or another, different areas of different ships, on the high seas off the east coast of South America vs. the west coast of Africa — etc. etc. etc.

The sensual details of a narrator’s experience are, to me, what are both most important and most pleasurable in the process of writing — especially writing long-form fiction like novels.

For me to enjoy writing a scene about being in the hold of a Bengali container ship, I need to have a sense of what it’s like there. My viewpoint character’s very tangible reality needs to become my reality. And yet this asshole insisted on doing crap I’d never done and going places I’d never been.

What a prick!! You believe the brass ones on this joker?

Sure, I can go back and find the memoirs of a Bengali sailor, if they exist; I can find an article about what it’s like to be on a ship; blah blah blah. I can do all of those things — but if I do them in the middle of my writing day, then the fiction doesn’t get written. Especially when I’m on a deadline, I simply can’t do all the research that is suggested by a plot that’s boiling over. That’s a sign that the plot is going swimmingly. Unfortunately, it’s also a huge pain in my ass.

This is one of the things I find most challenging about writing long-form fiction. If I’m doing it right, I run up against stuff I don’t know how to do. READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON WRITESEX.NET


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