Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Two weeks ago, I talked about externals...the choreography, body language, and senses of our characters. This week we're taking a look inside. Specifically, we'll cover two areas: Visceral responses and interior monologue.
Let's start with visceral responses by giving a quick explanation. Visceral responses are those initial gut reactions we feel inside when something happens to us. A twist in the stomach, sweaty hands, rapid pulse...Those are all viscerals.
So what are some areas to check in our scenes when it comes to visceral responses?
1) Do I have too few or too many? Are you using viscerals for key moments that warrant them in the scene? If you don't use enough, the reader will feel detached from your character. If you have too many, the reader will start to get motion sick. A good rule of thumb for me is to keep it to an average of one visceral per page AT MOST. For less intense scenes, it might be one visceral in the entire scene. For a major scene, I might have a couple pages that have two or three viscerals.
2) Do I use a variety of responses that make sense with the scene and the characters? This is similar to my post about externals two weeks ago. If your characters are having heart attacks (i.e., their "hearts stop beating") on every page, you have a problem. Really get yourself in their skin and make the reactions authentic.
Resources: As usual, I have to point to Margie Lawson on this one. Her classes really dive deep into visceral responses. She uses her experience as a psychologist and provides in-depth insights into visceral responses and how to use them for powerful writing.
1) Do I have too much interior monologue? Can you show the same emotions and responses through action and dialogue instead? Or maybe even a whole new scene?
2) Have I handled backstory well? Do you like to have your characters think in one big "backstory dump"? Is there a way to trickle in backstory only when it's necessary to the story? I think most of us have read plenty on the topic of avoiding backstory in the beginning of the manuscript, but we really should be careful in each scene to keep it to only the minimum and the necessary.
Resources: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers has an entire chapter devoted solely to interior monologue. And again, Margie Lawson covers this topic fully in her classes.
Your homework, should you choose to accept it: Sign up for or purchase one of Margie Lawson's classes or lecture packets. Or pull out your copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (or your library's copy). Highlight your internals in each scene and analyze them to make sure you have the right balance.
Do you have any pet visceral responses in your writing? How do you typically handle backstory? Any extra resources to share with our readers?
*This post is part of the Self-Editing Checklist series. For the rest of the series, click here.
**Body photo by smokedsalmon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
***Thoughts photo by suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net