The Gift of Gab

The gift of gab – something I feel I have in spades; something I feel I will never discover.  I sail smoothly through one conversation about Christmas gifts and sink in the calm waters of chat about Christmas dinner.   The holiday season always hits me with contemplations of how we humans learn to interact. And how easy it is to miss the mark in routine exchanges.

Mother-in-law:  You’re looking quite nice today.

Me:  Yeh, I have to do laundry.

It turns out that typical human interactions depend on a variety of factors (isn’t that just typical.)  It depends on expectations – what each person in the interaction is expecting from the interaction.  It depends on circumstance, on what each person is doing or about to do.   It depends on each person’s experience in similar conversations.

You’re not reading this for a sociology lesson; I get it.  This applies to writing, and very much so.   Back to laundry.   Leaving that particular bit of dialogue alone could be fun.

Pop quiz:  What kind of tone is the character “me” using?

Answer:  Rueful, I bet, though, every person reading this answered something completely different.  Because our interactions depend on a variety of things, like expectation and experience, none of which is provided in that bit of dialogue, forcing you to rely on personal experience.

As a reader, I like a bit more than pure dialogue, though.   Yet I feel we often go overboard one way or the other – we provide way too much for our purposes, or we give too little information.

I just think we, as developing writers, need to consider how we approach providing information.   I think we need to play with it a little bit, experiment with our particular gift of gab and dabble in others.

Neither way is bad, of course.  Actually both have their merits.   Both have their problems.  Too little information and our readers will misinterpret something vital.   Too much information and it’s easy to get lost in the details.

A reader, looking at my dialogue above, should probably know that I was dropping my baby off at his grandmother’s house, that this was a regular visit.   Readers may or may not know that having a baby with you probably quadruples the chance that you’ll get something on your clothes.   And it’s guaranteed to be something you want off your clothes immediately but have no option but to ignore – possibly until laundry day.  Frankly, readers can figure that part out for themselves, or not.

It would be very pertinent for a reader to know that this person is a frequent social stumbler – which would be the point of including a scene like this, and considering how much of all the expectations / experiences / circumstances surrounding the conversation is important to know in this instance.

It’s worth consideration.   After all, every conversation about Chanukah presents or holiday movies, no matter how mundane, are the patterns upon which our friends and colleagues learn our personalities.  We learn about each other from them, and about ourselves.  Why wouldn’t it be the same for our characters?

Graduating

It’s incredibly tempting to do my third-grader’s projects.

I have so many amazing ideas. She’s working on a book report for a Harry Houdini biography in the form of a board game right now, and I am way more excited about it than she is. I’m thinking about a tiny jail cell, a miniature Water Torture Cell and a darling little Sea Monster Escape model, each one small enough for the board, but big enough for the game pieces to fit into. I see a Disappearing Elephant and a game board shaped like handcuffs.

I could kick this project’s ass. I’d get not just a 4, the highest mark, but probably a 4+, something never before experienced in the third grade. It would hang on the wall in a place of honor. I’d be like Houdini himself, showing the people something they’ve never seen!

However… no matter how many fantastic ideas I have, I’ve been through third grade. No matter how exciting it is now, I’ve already done it, plus thirty years. As Glenn Close says in one of my favorite movies, Dangerous Liaisons, “One does not applaud the tenor for clearing his throat.”

I wrote erotica weekly for two years. I’m good at it. I love it.  What I love most is writing about the situations and circumstances in which two people come together and connect, and leave each other happier and more fulfilled than they were when they met. I love the raw honesty that can happen when human beings let themselves be naked, not just with another person, but with themselves, with who they are and what they truly want.

Two years is an excellent amount of practice. I can see the progression in my writing when I go back to the beginning and read through my stories in chronological order. If you give me a situation with sexy potential, I can knock out a page or two that will push you right into the action and make you react, be it with a racing pulse, swelling body parts or perhaps revulsion. Whatever it is, I can make you feel.

But what I want to do is write the novels that have been forming in my head for years. Continuing to write only erotica is the same as doing my kiddo’s projects. I would be clearing my throat. I can probably get a string of 4’s on erotic short stories, but I’d just as likely get 2’s on plot, character development, story arc and every other aspect of writing that I haven’t spent years practicing.

My third grader flops around in agony and repeatedly heaves sighs that range from the depths of the Grand Canyon all the way down to Mariana Trench. She whines, mutters to herself, finds a thousand ways to procrastinate and pouts. The closer she gets to finding the answer she’s looking for, the darker she glowers at me, because somehow, it’s all my fault.

Though I hope to act more maturely, it’s time for me to teeter on the edge of understanding something new, too. It’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to be open to criticism, to get frustrated, to fail and to start over. It’s time for me to add what I do best to a larger project, rather than focusing on the one piece I already know so well.

It’s time to start writing.