Strengths and Weaknesses

For our commentary we need to list the strengths and weaknesses in our writing. I won’t list what I plan to write are my strengths but I came up with a rather long list of weaknesses, although some are the inverse of possible strengths. For example, one person’s superfluous dialogue might be another’s illustration of character or inconsistency of character might also be viewed as adding complexity.

  • Over-explaining — insulting the reader’s intelligence by spelling out what can be inferred
  • Occasionally over-writing — though this depends a lot on the reader’s taste and the genre
  • Lapse into cliché/corniness — in the more emotional scenes I can put in soapy dialogue but when it’s real emotion I don’t think it pays to think of clever ways of having your characters avoiding saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I want you’.
  • Balance of interior/exterior — I often avoid the interior (could be linked with the POV issue)
  • POV not clearly enough signalled (or just inconsistent) — my POVs tend to confuse at times because I’ll allow the character whose POV I am writing from to infer observations (the other character must have entered the room because the POV character assumed she heard the door open — perhaps easier to say ‘she must have heard the door open’)
  • Not ‘listening’ to characters — being an authorial bully — thinking ‘wouldn’t it be a great scene for him to parade this other woman before his wife and provoke an argument between them all’ for the sake of creating a dramatic scene when really the characters don’t want to do that.
  • Lack of conciseness (inc. superfluous dialogue) — the universal reluctance to kill your own babies
  • Consistency of characterisation — readers thinking ‘x or y wouldn’t do that’ — but do I do this badly enough to make the reader give up or would be cumulative effect be to increase complexity if done properly?

A Short Extract — Prime Numbers, A Sink, A Gun and Two Rabbits

We were given an exercise to do a fortnight or so ago in which we had to write a maximum of 500 words in which a character from our novel was in a particular predicament. I’d better not say exactly what it was as that’s Emily’s IP but it needed to include a certain number of elements that turn up in my attempt (they didn’t include rabbits or the what Frances does herself in what I’ve written, though). I came up with a scenario that could fit very easily into the plot of ‘Burying Bad News’.

I didn’t get to read mine out due to time constraints but several other people did and they were all very good. I included it the material I submitted for my tutorial last night, though. Here’s a pdf of it (just over the word limit at 551).  (Be aware that it’s a little gruesome and involves a couple of fairly common psychological disorders:

 Sink and Oaks 110201  (Ignore the rather flippant subtitle too.)

I was very pleased that Emily really liked the writing in this, particularly the descriptions. She thought there was something of a disjoint between the contemplation and Frances’ eventual performing of the action and that her thought processes needed to be better explained.

One thing above all others that I’ve learned since getting both the tutors’ and class’ feedback is that I tend to underwrite the interior thoughts and motivations of my characters. I suppose I write from a visual/screenplay perspective for various reasons (doing a six month course at UCSB on Screenwriting might explain something about it). This is a tendency I need to counterbalance.