Friday, December 30, 2011
From the Archive: Wherein my 3 year-old teaches me about writing
Originally posted in March 2011.
My three year-old is currently going through the "why" stage. Moms will know this as the stage where alcohol becomes an essential part of mommy's nightly destress routine.
Basically every thing he watches, every activity we engage in, every moment of his day, he wants to know more about.
"Why did Darth Vader cut off Luke's hand?"
"Why does Sydney need a nap?"
"Why is mommy crying?"
"Why did Wall-E pick up all the trash?"
You get the idea. He follows me from room to room narrating my occupations and asking for my motivations. And then the other day it hit me, this is a good lesson for writers.
When I tell him "I don't know." He asks why. He restates the original question. I don't know is not an acceptable response. If I don't know, I better figure it the hell out before he asks my ear right off.
How many times have you watched the deleted scenes on the DVD you rented? You know why those scenes get cut, because they don't offer anything new or they don't give us compelling information. They don't give us any why. They don't offer us any new insight or they slow down the story without adding to it.
Does your book have scenes like this? Lots of dialogue with no real importance. If you ask yourself why it's there. Do you know? On the other hand, when your character does something, feels something, says something - do you know the motivation behind it? Every line of your manuscript has to have a purpose, so that the only why your reader is left with is one of breathless anticipation for your perfectly executed final reveal.
In other news, I think my son is going to be an actor. I'm going to start teaching him to ask "What's my motivation?" Instead of why.