Thursday, March 7, 2013

A little cross-training for the writer

My tip from the top comes from a strange source today. I'm in the process of directing a play for the local community theatre (The Prospect Players) and have been refreshing myself by reading a wonderful book I've had for awhile called Notes for Directing by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich.
The tip that caught my eye is this one:

96. Every object tells.
In a properly created on-stage world, nothing is extra and nothing is missing. To paraphrase Chekhov "Never hang a musket over the fireplace in Act I unless someone gets shot in Act III." That is, do not create visual anticipation without exploiting it. Playwright Romulus Linney stated this same idea more strongly: " Everything on the set should be used up, burned up, blown up, destroyed, or otherwise completely chemically altered over the course of the story or else it didn't belong there to begin with."

I find this absolutely stunning and provocative. I am going to look at my book and think this thought. I believe this is absolutely true and I needed to hear it in the realm of directing to get it in my writing. I already knew it there but didn't quite get it in my writing. I will definitely use this in my next revising. In a book I don't describe every bit of dust and pattern and cloth and object that I can see around me now as I write this. Just enough to give you the mood (I'm lying on the couch covered in a stripy rust, blue and sage material - my laptop where it is supposed to be, the wind shaking the glass in the window) and I think I tell way too much in parts of my novels.

What do y'all think? And don't you love the idea of chemically altering every single thing in your book? Like people's hearts being wrenched out of their bone cages, their eyes being scalded with jealous tears, their lives uprooted - their dna changed? yep.


Trisha F said...

This is a great notion, and something I definitely need to keep in mind more with my own writing. I've got a new project bubbling away in planning stages that I really want to be more careful with in this regard!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

An important tip...especially for mystery writers! Readers think everything we mention is a clue...and really, it should be!

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What a wonderful idea!! Thank you for reminding me that there are many ways to think and know and experience life. Our writing is better if we savour those different kinds of thinking.

Liza said...

I'm critiquing a partner's story right now, and one of the comments I just wrote was: "Does this add to the story? If it doesn't, get rid of it." This is so true...but hard to see when we are reading our own work.

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