writing with urgency

I have been slowly leveling up my writing craft in the past few years. Slooooowly. But they were all lessons well worth learning. I grew up only interested in writing books. Then I spent a year writing short stories and realized:

  1. They are really difficult. In some ways more difficult than writing a book. And,
  2. They teach you skills that are extremely valuable when writing a book.

How to be concise, how to imply theme without banging people over the head, how to develop characters in very few words/scenes, and most importantly for me: how to zero in on the story and leave out the junk. My first drafts always meander for about half a book and then I hit all the action. My editing phase is basically lopping off the first half and drafting new material that matches the pace of the second half.

My current goal in the writing game is to learn how to consistently write with urgency. Get the plot going immediately. Make sure each scene leads rapidly and logically into the next. And for goodness’ sake, have characters whose urgent needs/desires/goals drive everything forward. My other rough draft tendency is to write the plot with the characters stumbling along for the ride, and then I have to go back and give them agency, aka urgency.

This is on my mind today because UMMM OBVIOUSLY Mad Max: Fury Road comes out on DVD/BluRay today!

Talk about writing with urgency! I will gush for a million years about the way this movie blends action with character development and finds meaning in a very straightforward plot.

That being said:

Loving action movies (well, movies in general!) can hinder writers, because it is very easy to fall into the trap of Micky Mousing. In visual media, Micky Mousing refers to when the music is synced to the action. You know, like piano keys pinging with every step a cartoon character takes. In writing, I use it to mean telegraphing, because one time I forgot the word telegraphing and I used Micky Mousing instead.

Telegraphing is when you laboriously write out every single hand gesture and facial tic, the opening and closing of every door, characters walking into the room, pulling out the chair, sitting down in the chair, and folding their hands pensively as they turn their face to another person and look at them. It’s an amateur style and all it really telegraphs is, I am picturing this scene like a movie in my head, and I don’t know how to imply things in a literary manner so I am describing them literally.

Writing with urgency strips the fluff. If stuff is happening in every scene, you don’t need to struggle to fill up sentences in between dialogue describing the way somebody’s hair falls into their face. Why sit and talk when you can run and talk? Heck, why have a long conversation at all if you can imply everything they’re thinking with a one-liner followed by pained silence?

That’s all I have to say this week, my chickadees. Get writing.