Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Couldn't Stand Watercolors

As it says on the main Profile, I'm reading Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. My goal this term is to work on my description. Bleh. Er, not about working on my description, but just the fact that for some reason it's become not-so-good. I don't know why, but let's forget about that at the moment.

As I read McClanahan's guide to writing more descriptively, I realized something that helped to explain my difficulty in getting description to transform from mundane to pure awesomeness. Don't know why I never really saw it before; it seems like it should have been as plain as day. I read other great descrptions and think, "Man, I wish I could write like that." Maybe if I'd been paying attention, I wouldn't be at this juncture. The problem lies in my issue with finding just the right words. I find myself constantly trying to find great words to truly express what I want to express. My thesaurus has become dog-eared with use because I just can't seem to fit all these good words into my head. I make little marks next to words as I write, putting notes in the margins, * find alt word, when something doesn't hit me right and I don't want to stop (or I have stopped and haven't found the right word so I simply return later).

McClanahan speaks of the proper and special naming of a thing, as well as words that describe as opposed to merely labeling something. That could not be more right. Without the proper words for an object, action, and so forth, the description isn't as precise and can make all the difference. I need to focus on doing that. Exactly what I needed to be beaned in the head with.

She also mentions taking time to examine things, look at them in different ways, with different perspectives. At least I can say I do this. Often, actually. I like to go outside and ponder the tiny veins in a maple leaf or the way a spider keeps her legs on individual strands of her web, pulling them taut to detect even the slightest movement, which could indicate dinner. Just today I found a black ant, a soldier, in the sink. No idea how he got there, and at first I thought he'd been smashed and someone swept him in there and failed to swish him down the drain. But when it doubt, a little puff of air from your mouth will tell you whether he's alive or not. He was, so then I plopped my chin at the edge of the sink and watched him, letting my soup bubble for its three minutes. I like to just eyeball things and describe them in my head - like the baby praying mantis I once found, who (and I swear by this) loved my petal pink nail polish. But I never put any of it down on paper because I never considered it of any use. Perhaps I should have as practice.

Considering McClanahan's words, maybe I should do this more often before putting anything down on paper when it comes to my story. Sit back, close my eyes, and put myself in the room. Stand next to a character. Touch the table he's at. Stare at the scene he sees (or she in some cases).

I need to sweat the small stuff.

Currently: Somewhere being ethereal.

P.S. More on this book to come as I continue reading.

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