Flat – or three-dimensional?

How can my work evolve from its first flat shape – to a three-dimensional piece of quality writing? After all, that is my ambition – quality writing. Not simply a collection of sequential, narrative sentences. Okay – I have my blurb and I am trying to make my kind of fiction magic believable for anyone who reads my work (Doubt- go away!). That is my aim. But it does not happen as simply as that. I know where I am going. I even have a rough layout of my plot line, in chapters and scenes. But it’s still a struggle to put the right words on that white screen as I go along. We are back to thinking about layers as dimension.

Maybe I am doing with my writing – what I know I often do with my painting: trying to fill in the details of my picture before the background is ready – as I do not yet know where those details need to go. For example, this week I painted a kingfisher at my art group. The shape had to come first, getting his head right, his overall shape, his tail feathers. That first outline on the white paper, that would determine the overall quality of my painting. Next came the basic colouring of each part: which blue to use, for his back? His orange chest? I was working in watercolour, trying to get the background colours on, before filling in the details when it dried. Once the colours were down, I could think about how to get some layers on his feathers, tone, shadows and depth. That three dimensional effect of a bird.

Back to my fiction writing. A new scene. Blank screen. Sentences that draw in the overall shape. Any old sentences will do, I try to tell myself. The details come later. But my mind does not think like that. I keep going back to each sentence – amending it, changing words here and there. Yes – I am doing it again: trying to add details to parts, before my overall canvas has been properly coloured in.

The result? Not as much white screen filled in as I would like. So I have not met my word count. What I have achieved is some quite good dialogue – because I have been messing about with it. But have I advanced my story? Not a lot.

What to do? Finally I plunge in, picture the scene, recall who is on stage and where they are (metaphorically) standing – then ask my favourite fiction question – what happens next? It works. I end up with a few stilted sentences and try hard not to tinker with them. What happens next? Where does each character go? What do they say? It is working a little. Gran…… Millie…….she…….Then……. Okay, the story is moving. That screen is filling up. I tell myself not to go back – only forward. Then I stop. A word jumps out at me. I cannot ignore it. It needs changing so once again I tinker with what I have written. And sigh. Maybe that is the way in which I will always write.

As I write this blog, the word ‘three-dimensional’ comes to mind again: those final dabs and strokes that help my kingfisher look rounded, rather than flat; and therefore as real as possible. As writers we often describe poor quality writing as flat. Maybe this is what our writing has to be in the initial phase, before it can reach its three-dimensional quality.

I am intrigued. What is it that makes a piece of writing stand out as three-dimensional? What is it that will inject such quality into my (and our) fiction writing? Watch this space. I will be back with some answers to my questions next week. For now, it’s full steam ahead.

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