My Rogue Writing Sheep
I've named this blog "Sheepgate" for many reasons, one of which is that, through writing, I seek a gate that opens into a pasture where children thrive on hope. When I write, my words, thoughts and imagination seem to gather into a flock of sheep, wandering over the meadows in search of that gate. Unfortunately, despite this noble cause and the heroic efforts of an Editing Shepherd, some of these writing sheep tend to lose their way.
The fact that I have some very bad writing habits is a secret we must keep from literary agents, or else I'll never convince them of my impressive abilities. But, the truth of the matter is that I constantly allow some naughty sheep to run amuck in the pasture of my story-telling. If you promise to keep this between us, I'll introduce you to a few of these embarrassing tendencies.
Wooly is a pretty harmless little sheep. The problem is, she keeps telling my characters to "turn."
"He turned to leave."
"She turned to face him, then turned toward the shore."
"They turned toward each other, then he turned to the fire while she turned to turn toward the turn table."
Wooly means well, but she just keeps spinning in circles for no reason! So, I do my best to keep an eye out for little Wooly spinning her top again, and instead I write more specific, less superfluous action.
"Finding his hat, he left without a word."
"She could only meet his stare for a moment before looking out to sea."
"Two drunkards sat precariously near the fire."
Mutton is one of the more insecure members of the flock. With each new piece of information, he is so afraid the reader will become confused that, he over-explains. This creates problems, rather than solving them.
"Buck wiggled his ears cheerfully. You see deer can't smile so instead they do this thing where they wiggle their ears which is the deer equivalent of a smile. Tess already knew that, because on her way to the place where she met Buck she came across a manual for deer gestures. The manual was on the ground because hundreds of years ago a hunter dropped it. The hunter bought the manual because he had had a change of heart about deer ..."
You get the point.
Poor Mutton. Editor Shepherds try to tell him that readers are smart and that their attention is less affected by unexplained world building than insincere character choices, but he just has a lot of lamby issues. Sometimes it's best to just let him go rogue in the first draft, then cut out all the apologizing in the revision stage. That way he gets it all out of his system.
Poor little guy.
I feel I must be completely honest about Grazy: he is running rampant. I can't explain it, but Grazy has the whole flock convinced that the only way to describe characters is by describing their eyes. It's like everyone in Glademont is a floating pair of eyeballs.
"His eyes caught sight of her fluttering lashes."
"Tess looked unsteadily into his cool, green eyes."
"Their eyes met, and then another pair of eyes appeared next to one of their eyes, but the new pair was brown and squinting while the first two pairs were blue and narrowing while a fourth pair of eyes appeared moistened ..."
Again, Grazy is out of control. It's possible that his tyranny over the flock is rooted in some deeply romantic sympathies. But, whatever the reason, he must be stopped. Although eyes are one of our most expressive features, characters have plenty of others. Perhaps the hands can be doing something? Maybe there's a vein bulging somewhere or a lip being bitten?
The point being, the imagination of the average reader ventures beyond the posters hanging in an optometrist's office.
No one likes Soapbaax. She's all know-it-all-y and keeps a pencil behind her ear even though she can't write with her hooves. She thinks every moment of the story is a teaching moment, so she takes us way off course, miles from the sheep gate just so the reader knows her mind on the topic of parenting or manners or hobbies or dating. You really gotta watch out for Soapbaax, because she'll try and convince you that what she's doing is super subtle -- one of those golden nuggets that professors of the future will quote in their Power Points. Most of the time, though, Soapbaax is very wrong.
The Editing Shepherds of my life sure have their work cut out for them, but the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. So okay, I admit they have a problem.
Get it together, rogue sheep! We'll make it to that pasture some day.