When I go to schools I find myself comparing being a writer to being an athlete alot. Which is probably weird since I’m about the furthest thing from a sports fan as you can imagine. But I was thinking about this again today as I was editing Dog Soldier (which, by the way, is not going to be called Dog Soldier much longer. Not sure what it will be called instead yet. Stayed tuned) and I came to a scene that was just not working. I came at it from one direction after another until I finally realized that the problem was that I had absolutely no idea what one of the two characters in the scene wanted. I had no idea why she was there.
That, my friends , is that the sporty folks would call a problem with my fundamentals.
See, when you think about it, baseball comes down to throwing a ball, catching a ball, hitting a ball and running. As you move higher up in the sport layers of strategy and complexity are put on top of that but the foundation is always throwing, catching, hitting and running. Look at pro athletes, no matter where they are in their career they are still practicing those fundamentals. It’s the basis of everything they do.
I think with writing, especially after you’ve been doing it awhile, you can get too wrapped up in the complexities of things and, like I did in that scene, lose sight of the fundamentals. To move forward I had to stop thinking about theme or character arcs or any of that stuff and simply ask myself…why is this person here? What does she want in this scene?
Of course this raises the question of what exactly are the fundamentals writing wise? Opinions absolutely vary, but for me at least, I think they are….
- What need is each character trying to fill?
- How do they go about trying to fill it?
- What gets in their way?
- Specificity and clarity of language.
I’m curious. What do you all think are the writing fundamentals?