January 2014 through December 2014 - Page 32

Genre Juggling and other fun with fiction by Rodney Page A h, the challenges of fiction writing. Anyone who sits down at the keyboard is familiar with them…plots and subplots, characters, locales, etc. But we each face our own bugaboos founded in our individual experiences and choices. Here I’ll share three of mine you may likely face to varying degrees…and some thoughts I hope you find helpful. Just the Facts, Ma’am…NOT Like many of you, I regularly attend an author’s group. The five of us have grown comfortable with each other; egos are stowed, and we offer frank, sometimes painful critiques of each other’s work. For a recent meeting, I submitted a chapter of an inprogress novel. Of course, I was quite pleased with it…a really neat scene, good characters. I awaited my turn for feedback with great anticipation, knowing glowing comments were forthcoming. “It reads like a documentary,” she said. I was shattered. I thought I had overcome an acknowledged shortcoming, but, obviously, I hadn’t. For forty years my writing was limited to business documents…business and strategic plans, prospectuses, etc. And I wrote a non-fiction business book. They all shared common characteristics: brevity, succinctness, clarity…in short, the goal was to communicate as much information as possible using a minimum number of words. Not particularly good training for writing fiction. I’ve improved, but like an undisciplined congregant, I occasionally backslide to my sinful ways. When I do, I lose the richness that comes with lush descriptors of people, places and events. The lesson: An after-the-fact effort to enliven a lifeless character or flesh out a scene in a grimy boarding house isn’t preferable. When banging out the first draft, overdo the descriptors. Write more than you think you should. Two pages of backstory might be overkill; one page may do it. Three paragraphs describing the boarding house might be reduced to one. Remember, you can always ta