Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't Let Them "See You Writing"

Have you ever watched a movie and cringed because the acting was bad? I mean, painfully bad? Squirm-in-your-seat bad? The actor's eyebrows are raised too far in surprise, the dialogue feels robotic, the mannerisms are forced and over-done. And in those cases, I always think to myself, "I can 'see' them acting." Because it's so unnatural and awkward. Maybe the bad acting comes from trying too hard (there's no subtlety, no nuance). Or, maybe it's from not having enough acting experience or education. Whatever the case, the worst part is that it takes me, the viewer, completely out of the movie.

Similarly, I think that if we writers are trying too hard (if our prose is too flowery or overdone), or if we're not experienced enough (perhaps we have poor grammar, mechanics, characterization, etc), then it's unnatural and awkward. And the reader can easily "see us writing." And, again, our readers will be taken out of our story.

Another factor is when a writer becomes, as Stephen King puts it, "enchanted with his powers of description." Too much unnecessary detail is another way the writer can be "seen" writing. If the writer is in love with his/her own descriptions, it gets in the way of the story:

So, how do we avoid being "seen" as we write?

Read, read, read (educate ourselves to recognize what good writing looks like). Remember to be subtle (treat your readers as "smart" - don't hit them over the head with obvious details). Practice good grammar and mechanics (those are the basics every writer should know).

And, in the end, just use your writers' instinct. Listen to your gut as you write. Let your voice come through. As long as it's natural, as long as you're being truthful with the emotion in the scene, you're less likely to be "seen" writing.


  1. And, you know, hide under your bed when you write, because it's not likely anyone will be able to see you writing while you're under there.

  2. LOL! Excellent point.

    Sorta reminds me of that movie, "House of D" (David Duchovny directs/writes). The main character is an artist who sketches under the bed, lol.