Physicality (and emotions) [and I don’t mean sex]

It occurred to me last night while stretching before bed* that I’ve been ignoring a key component of writing in recent weeks: the physicality of things — specifically, the physical qualities of people, be it interacting with environments or simply self-awareness. Remembering back over some recent scenes, I can already see that they are described largely in terms of action or dialogue, which is not inherently bad, by any means, but they lack a good grounding in the physical.

I don’t mean excessive detail and page-burdening description — things that almost always tend to put me to sleep when I’m reading — but the kind of small touches that remind us who we’re reading about and where we are. Kelly has certain physical qualities that make her precisely who she is, as do the rest of the cast, and sometimes I can forget these things in the speed (or slowness) of writing. This is dangerous because when I forget to keep this in mind, and in the writing, I have a terrible habit of ‘sliding’ a character into a stereotype or other inaccurate representation, which all comes back to not listening and not watching with enough care and, ultimately, forgetting that it’s not my story, but theirs.

This leads me to emotions, which, in my experience, are often an outgrowth of, reaction to, or anticipation of certain aspects of physicality (fear and love being the obvious examples). As such, it is perhaps not surprising that the emotional sucker punch packed into the last couple days’ writing should be the catalyst for this realization. Without going into detail, I was as blindsided by the current scene and its impact as Kelly was, but only after I took a moment to consider what it would be like to go through this particular thing myself.

Prior to that consideration, I had been writing on semi-autopilot, having forgotten to pay attention to the details, and while the story was (and still is) good, I was letting the reality of these events slip away, which is something I have tried very hard not to do, particularly with this series. Barring the obvious** piece of suspension of disbelief, I have made every effort to keep Kelly and Co. firmly grounded in reality, in all other ways.

Once I realized that I was letting this happen, though, it was short work to get myself back to where I needed to be and fill in the blanks I’d been leaving with relatively minimal fuss. End result? Stronger story!


* Yes, I’m that old that I have to stretch before bed to try and avoid sleeping poorly.

** Assuming none of this is real, of course. Right?