by Marla White
The other day I was painting my back door. No, that’s not hipster code for a new sexual position or personal landscaping, I was literally putting a fresh coat of paint on the door at the back of my house. Give it a second, this ties in to writing I promise…
It’s a great French door with tons of windows that let in a lot of light, so slapping on a new coat of paint on the door itself was easy, but painting all those edges with all that glass was mind numbingly hard to do.
Which made me think about writing. Opening up a blank page on the computer (or notebook, or however you write) for me at least is the fun part. All that space gives me permission to just start throwing ideas out there like a roller full of a new color paint. It’s the detail work that I hate doing. All those character‘s back stories that no one else will ever know so can’t I just skip it? And descriptions to make a scene really pop - someone else is going to shoot it so does it really matter?
The problem is in writing, just like painting, the details are what make the finished product a thing of beauty. The painter uses whatever tool it takes – tape, an edger or a steady hand from years of experience – to keep the paint off the window and the line perfectly straight.
As a writer, you can simply introduce a character with their age and the typical sort of “think Cameron Diaz five years ago” as a description and figure casting will sort it out in the end. Or, as writer L.M. Harter did in her spec pilot you can say, “CLAIRE, 35, white, ten pounds to lose for LA, bulimic for Michigan…” It paints a clear picture AND goes a lot farther in terms of setting the tone and clarifying the writer’s voice than the first example. It also makes a memorable impression, and being remembered is pretty much the key to success.
It’s hard work, but focusing your attention on the details in your plot, characters and dialog will be worth. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I try to clean the paint off my windows…