The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A writer friend informs me that I missed one of my favorite movie scenes this morning. It's a scene I consider to be one of the best moments in movie history: Charlton Heston putting on his pants in Big Country.

See, Gregory Peck comes to CH's bunkhouse in the wee hours to wake him up so they can duke it out mano a mano in private. CH gets out of his bunk and, in about one-and-a-half seconds, Puts On His Pants before heading outside to fight. By g*d, it's the manliest, toughest putting-on-of-pants since men have had pants to put on. Charlton Heston is not messing around. This guy is mega-macho, and he's ready to kick Greg Peck's @ss.

Ah, here it is, at 2:32:

What this has to do with writing is that I suddenly realized this is one of the signs I need to keep an eye out for, to make sure I'm not losing character in service to plot (and therefore getting off course). Losing track of character in tiny moments--for example, a generic putting-on-of-pants when the character would in reality Put On His Pants--may be a sign that I'm rushing through to get to a plot point.

So I need to make sure I stay in touch with the character consistently, especially during transitions like this one in the bunkhouse. As I work out this story, I need to make sure to go back and check every moment from inside the character's head and body, to ensure that I'm not skimming and therefore risking getting off track.

Also, even if a generic putting-on-of-pants is called for, it's so much more satisfying to make something like that strengthen and sharpen, rather than letting it slide by as a throwaway. Hmm, I just saw about a million of these places very well done in Dorothy Dunnett's second Lymond book, Queen's Play. But I don't have time to find any of them right now. When I start book 3 I'll try to remember to mark some as I go along. She's fantastic at this sort of thing.

But I just remembered something else. I do have a generic putting-on-of-pants in my WIP. And the reason I have it, now that I think about it, is because I'm fudging: I don't know what this guy wears, exactly. This is not good. I've got to get it figured out at some point*--preferably sooner rather than later.

*Figuring it out means going through the backstory and world in my head to understand what's available for everyone to wear, what this guy's clothes are likely to look like and be made of, where he got his, etc. I'd also better know how this group of characters handles their clothes, like mending, laundry, etc. This is not a civilization that's going to have a lot of throwaways; clothes are hard to come by. They're going to be wearing everything down to rags, and they don't have soap, either. However, they also know about bacteria and how diseases are passed along.** So. Lots to think about.

**Hmm, Laurence Wylie's Village in the Vaucluse has something useful to think about here. The French kids are extremely careful to keep their clothing clean; they're brought up from childhood to never get a speck of dirt on anything. They have few clothes and most of their moms have to wash everything via hand-scrubbing.