Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Need Scene Depth? View it From a New Angle

I went hiking recently. As I picked my way down the trail, sliding on wet rocks, using branches and tree trunks to lower myself past giant steps of rock, I thought about my book characters. They're presently being pursued through desert hills. Yet while my main character and his friend have obstacles, I realized a more realistic setting could give them additional organic challenges. They can’t just walk along a smooth slope. They should be scaling rocks above uneven ground, sliding down steep grades while clinging to tree roots. And in my story, it rained yesterday. Where are today's slick stones and muddy trail?

Getting out on that trail gave me a completely different way to look at my manuscript, somewhat akin to the Coke bottle story you've likely heard. A teacher challenged his class to draw a glass Coke bottle. Most drew variations on the Coke's unique curved shape. But one student's sketch made everyone wonder. He sketched one large circle with a smaller one inside it. His angle? Looking straight down.
If you’re struggling with where to go in your story, ask yourself: How can I look at this problem, plot, or character from a completely different angle?
If you're writing about exotic cooking, maybe you need to go try a restaurant that serves a kind of food you've never eaten before. Then, instead of your character complaining about "little green flecks" in his food, you can talk about the flavors of truffle oil, or Thai basil.
You don't have to go for a long, muddy hike. (I went for the waterfall. The story idea was a bonus.) Consider finding a new experience. Or ways to look at a common one in an uncommon way.
[This is a different version of my post at wifyr.com/blog]