Monday, October 18, 2010

Writer's Weights: Efficiency Challenge (WW7)

Want to exercise your writing chops? This week's writer's weights exercise focuses on the writing ensemble. Answers to the challenge will be posted on Friday. If you use this exercise, post a link in the comments, and I'll update the post with your link. Everyone is welcome to participate.

In society today there's often too much to do and too little time. As writers, we struggle with balancing our work, family, life, and writing. We're always left wanting more time in our day and to be able to do more than one thing at the same time. Some people believe in multitasking, I don't (or more exactly I believe it can be done like computers where they focus on one specific subject and every time they switch to a different subject there is a context switch cost of inefficiency). However, I believe that my writing should do more than one thing.

Stuart Jaffe wrote an article on the Magical Words writing tips site about creating characters in small spaces. I recommend this article because it does a good job of demonstrating how one can make their writing to more than one thing. In particular, he breaks down the first two hundred words of one of his short stories and describes what he was trying to achieve in each part. Importantly, most of his example has two or more purposes.

A recent comment about dialogue on Nevet's post on the necessity of art not being realistic reminds me of this sense of efficiency. I don't like dialogue that's cheating to provide backstory. I like dialogue that does multiple things at the same time. Dialogue that: heightens the conflict between two characters, demonstrates a character's traits, distinctively differentiates two characters, and/or moves the plot forward.

This doesn't just apply to dialogue but applies to description and action. The reader will fill in many of the details in the description and so the pieces that are provided should be the important ones that capture not just the image that is in my mind but are important for understanding the characters and the story.

The challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less (I'll probably try for significantly less) that makes every sentence do more than one thing. Theme for this week: scales.


  1. That's an excellent link. I'll have to remember that when I'm writing. I think I've fallen prey to using the dialogue for exposition, when really as it says, it should be doing multiple things at once. Same goes for everything else. Good reminder.

  2. @TS, When I ran across that example recently, I knew that I needed to perform it as an exercise, because although I think about it, I don't necessarily analyze it during revision & the writing process.