Earlier today, I read Patricia C. Wrede’s blog post about finding the single absolutely perfect word while writing. I’ve struggled with this. There are times when one of my characters thinks, says, or does something, and I know there’s a wonderful word on the back of my brain that would be perfect for the given situation. Unfortunately, these words aren’t kind to me, and they refuse to come when called. I usually compromise with my inner editor in a way similar Wrede’s. I stop and think for a moment, trying to put myself as deeply into that character’s shoes as I can, then write the best descriptions I can think of to fit the situation. I leave it like that and keep writing.
This does a few things.
1) It lets me continuing writing. I don’t have to let a single word stand between me and however many words, lines, or pages I can write that day.
2) I stay aware of the problem line in the back of my head. I like doing this, as it seems that most of my story problems solve themselves fairly well if I keep them simmering on the back-burner long enough. I can’t begin to number the times I think, How can I fix this issue? only to realize that my subconscious already has it figured out. I love it when this happens – I put in less conscious effort, and my story feels more natural than if I forced a lesser storyline.
3) There are two parts to this one. Sometimes, after being away from a problem area for a while, I’m able to look at the issue more objectively. (Not always, but sometimes.) As Wrede discovered, sometimes the problem really is all in the writer’s head. Sometimes there is no single right answer, and whatever I put down is quite good enough.
If I still think there’s a problem, however, I have several “reminders” for where the problem area is. I can look for the spots where I’ve listed several alternatives, and play around with them, mixing them up or creating more. Even better, I can share the suggestions I’ve given myself with others (usually family members), and see which one(s) they think fits best and why. Sometimes they have an even better suggestion, or can tell me why one description fits where another fails. They may have insights for why a character acts a certain way that I wouldn’t think of. (For instance, of course Character A would give Character B a sword – not only because B collects antique weapons and knows swordplay, but also because A has a history for disliking this sword and wants to get rid of it. I might catch the first part but completely miss the second part.)
It’s always amusing and scary to read an author’s blog post and realize that the Famous and Wise Author does things the same way I do….