Cheryl Van Eck
“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and work off the resonance.”
I love this concept. Disney/Pixar in particular are geniuses at this. They can wrap so much emotion into the smallest object. Remember Mulan, when they reach the village that had been burned to the ground and they found the doll? Or Pocahontas, when Kocoum dies and he grabs her mother’s necklace as he falls and it shatters? And the note in the back of Ellie’s Adventure Book in Up?
All of these tiny, nearly insignificant artifacts pack major emotional resonance. If the big picture is too overwhelming to you as a writer, then it will be to your reader as well. It’s all in the details. A three page description can (and should) be replaced with a small, emotionally significant detail. And suddenly you’ve gone from long winded and dull to memorable. Unforgettable, really.
As you’re revising (and hopefully cutting), keep an eye out for this. Make your descriptions carry their weight. They aren’t there just so you can string pretty words together, and they aren’t there so you can have a laundry list of what a place looked like. Infuse emotion and character. Descriptions have been deadbeat freeloaders for too long. Let’s put them to work!
My husband was lucky enough to be in Greg Leitich Smith‘s class at WIFYR this year. Again. Greg was his teacher two years ago, the first time Herb had attended this great workshop. One of the things I admired, at a distance, was the variety of small writing assignments Greg came up with. Here’s one of them from this year:
What does the person closest to your antagonist think about him or her? (My first reaction: WHO is that person? Why is s/he that close to someone who is purported to be the “villain” by the end? Why is s/he close to such a person?)
And my challenge for you: write a 300-500 word response to Greg’s question. You may choose to write this in either 1st or 3rd person.
How is your summer writing going?
Are you letting life get in the way of your goals to work on your book?
Who in your family might help you accomplish your writing by giving you some free space?
Is that person you?
Remember, we give ourselves what we think we deserve, we make time for what we truly love and what’s important to us.
Are you doing that for your novel?