Saturday Writers Group: Pacing, Detail, and Dreams

31 Jul

You know I’ve been writing a lot of book reviews when this meeting was 28-June and I’m just writing about it now. I realize I could just not tell you these things, but we might as well be honest with each other, right? I think so. The weekend writers’ group I’ve joined got together and helped me go through a story I’ve been struggling with one more time. While we talked, I took away a few other nuggets of information that I want to explore here with you.

The first was pacing as it pertains to dialogue in particular. A story that’s pure dialogue is boring (unless done purposefully) because there’s no movement. Consequentially, a story that’s all movement where the characters don’t speak can be dull because we’re stuck inside one character’s head. There’s a way to pace dialogue and action to stay away from both. I found a passage from the but I’m reading, The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen.

“The seedpods were quite interesting,” said the King. “They are said to be quite nutritious, though they do look a little off-putting.”
I gazed at the shriveled brown stalks
“What is the name of the ridiculous weed?” asked Dona Juana.
The King patted the Queen’s neck as she turned to look. “I believe,” he said, “they call it ‘maize'” (254).

I think this is a great example because it helps the reader see that though the conversation is between the King and his sister, Dona Juana, there are other people around; people who are moving and interacting with what’s going on, even though they’re not talking. We have our narrator, Sofi, who is gazing at the stalks, and the Queen, who is walking with her husband and curiously turning around. Without the action in this scene, we have only a conversation between siblings and the other characters are ignored. With only action, we can’t sense the tense silence the Queen and Sofi are keeping (if I’d expanded this, you would see how tense it is! But I’ll leave some mystery so you read it.).

The next thing we talked about was the balance of detail and brevity in flash fiction. I brought a piece that was originally limited to 1000 words and ended up being closer to 700. A few people recommended adding details about what the two characters looked like or description of the setting, but I wonder if that’s too much for a 700 word piece. So I ask you, Reader; What’s a good balance of brevity and description in flash fiction? Have you read any pieces that you think show a good example? I’m tending to lean toward less description myself, but I tend to do that in all my writing, be it flash or novel length. I’ll be interested to see what you all think.

The final think we talked about was basing a piece on a dream. I think there are several ways to do this, and I have my preferences. I think inspiration for fiction from dreams can be really good. I know several authors who were inspired to write their pieces based on something strange from a dream. Nothing wrong with that. I think our subconscious can give us images that we feel a need to share with the world.

However, I see a limitation to this. The piece that comes from a dream needs to make sense. I don’t like when writers re-tell their dream, either in prose or poetry. To me, you need to be answer a writers question of why something is a certain way or if it represents anything. The answer ‘That’s how it was in my dream’ isn’t enough for me. What’s your opinion on pieces based on dreams?

Until next time, Reader, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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