By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine
Well, you can tell me if this is true for you or not, but I write my best scenes and dialogue when I am writing in my comfort zones. No, I’m not talking about writing in my office or out on my patio. I’m talking about writing about the settings I’m placing my characters in.
I’m an outdoors person. I love to hike and camp. I’m comfortable in the mountains or on the beach, as long as I am outside. Where am I the most uncomfortable? Any meetings. I don’t like being confined to a room and having to listen to reports or spontaneously come up with ideas while everyone is watching. As far as the time of day, I prefer being outside in the mornings or right at dusk. I try to be in by dark (guess that comes from my upbringing when I could play with friends in the neighborhood as long as I was home by dark).
So, what does this have to do with my writing? After all, I’m creating fictional characters that often have very different personalities from my own. They have their own tastes. However, I have learned that when I am placing my characters in situations or settings that I am uncomfortable in, I tend to write as if the characters are uncomfortable there. I have to check myself or I will have a character running for home just because the sun is setting. I’ve had powerful CEOs squirm in a meeting just because I would.
That’s when I have to edit the most. I have to go back and make dialogue flow much more smoothly or have the character do something to appear relaxed like take off her shoes and relax on the patio as she watches the moon at midnight. When my characters are out of my comfort zones, I tend to want to get them back to my happy places quickly.
I’ve learned to edit my way out of those situations and improve the scenes, but I always have to admit that it’s a weakness for me. Decide what makes you uncomfortable and go back through your writings. See if this is true for you. You may have an entirely different weakness in your manuscripts. What’s important, though, is to know where your weak spots are and acknowledge them. Then you can edit your way to a stronger scene.