Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect Clarity

By Keith Fisher

In my day job, or the job I do when I’m not writing, I’m a Digital Preservation Specialist. It’s a glorified way of saying I digitize old records. Anyway, most of the time, I operate a machine that scans microfilm. It captures each frame at 200 images per minute. If my parameters aren’t set right in the beginning, there are many problems that can arise. For instance, if you don’t take time to set the focus, clarity on the whole roll can suffer.

There are times when I find a photographer’s camera has drifted off and the focus goes out of whack in the middle of the roll, but generally if I get the focus right, before I start scanning, the rest of the roll will be clear.

Writing is like that. If I establish my characters, and set up the scenes in the beginning, I can sit back and let my characters tell the story. As a reader, I hate to get halfway into a book and find the characters doing something they just wouldn’t do.

But the big problem I have in my writing, is when I make assumptions that the reader has a working knowledge of situations my characters are involved in. For example, I have a character in one of my books who plays pool for money. The first time I took it to critique group, I had to explain some of the finer points of playing pool. The Ladies in my group needed to have it explained, so I had to rewrite it, and that brought clarity to my story.

I’ve also noticed, as LDS fiction writers, we make many references in our books that only LDS people understand. It’s true we are writing for the LDS market, but I think we can benefit from taking the time to analyze our writing form other’s point of view. That, if you haven’t already realized, is one of the greatest advantages to belonging to a critique group.

My critique group helps me with their experience. I can bounce ideas off them, each member has different expertise. With their help, I can set my parameters, and write my book to the ending. Like the film rolls I scan, everything will have perfect clarity.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Great blog, Keith! Hope you're feeling better.

ali said...

That is so true! I tend to keep secrets, to hold my cards too close to my chest, thinking it adds drama and mystery to my stories. But my crit buddies tell me that I'm leaving TOO much to mystery and it makes them frustrated. Using your analogy - like they're squinting at my characters, trying to see what I see ... but I've kept the film purposely blurry and they (my readers) don't like it.

I have to remember to expose just the right amount so the part I allow to be seen is in clear focus ... maybe then my little mysteries will be tolerable, lol.

Keith Fisher said...

thanks for the nice comments ladies. Yes Tristi, I'm feeling better. How did the caulking go?

Ali, I have been plagued with that forever. you are in good company