A while back, I was reading a biography of Kingsley Amis (what an entertainingly grumpy man he was) in which he mentions that the hardest part of writing is “getting your characters out of the pub and into the cab”.
Oh, yes, indeed. Even though I don’t write the kind of books where characters go from pubs to cabs—or vice versa—they do very inconveniently need to transition from one scene to another. Or from one side of the room to the other. The gall of them! Stupid characters.
Sex scenes are a cinch. Action ditto. Writing the tragic break up? Piece of cake. The death scene? Doddle.
But transitions? Total bugger.
Sometimes I am so stumped by my attempt to get a character to walk from one side of the street to the other—Just walk! Not even walk and chew gum! Nothing fancy!—that I give up and blow them up instead. So much easier. Or, you know, simply cut to the next bit. Thank you, film world, for inventing the jump cut.
And yet if you keep up that approach you run out of characters. Also endless jump cuts get really old really quickly.
So I spend hours writing and rewriting simple transitions: “Leandra Hotshot spied Gertrude Schadenfreude on the other side of the room. She had a red rose between her teeth and champagne flute in her hand. Leandra got out of her chair and nimbly darted towards her friend.”
“Leandra Hotshot meandered toward her red rose munching friend Gertrude Schadenfreude. Sometimes the other side of the room seemed so very far away.”
“Leandra Hotshot spontaneously combusted, leaving both sides of the room coated in human ashes. Gertrude dusted the light grey flakes from her shoulders, wondering where all the snow had come from. She had never been very bright.”
Ah, much better! Except for the elimination of my central character. But I never liked her anyway.
What do you lot find hardest about writing? For me it’s transitions and deadlines. That and the fact that non-paid writing (like blogging) is so much more fun than paid writing.
What? I’m supposed to be rewriting the great Australian Elvis fairy cricket monkey mangosteen knife fight novel right now? Me? I thought Maureen was taking care of that. No? Really? Huh. Well, that blows. Do you think Scalzi could do it then? Or Cory? They both write fast . . .