Saturday, April 7, 2012

G: Gut

The writer's gut is a vital tool. Your gut tells you what works and what doesn't. It says this sentence sounds right and that one doesn't. Your characters have their roots down in your gut, and they're one avenue for your gut to get its message to you. It's the subconscious side of your writing ability, and it can't always put into words the things it needs to tell you.
When it can't put it into words,
my gut uses anti-aircraft fire

Your talent is in your gut, IMO. Regardless of how much you've got in there, your gut needs to be trained and trusted.

Read, read, read. And then be a five-year-old and ask why about everything. Why did this scene bore me? When did the asshole character turn into a good guy? How many loose ends are "okay" in a story? Why did I know the surprise twist was coming?

Don't limit yourself to "your" genres, either. Read everything and subject it to the same level of scrutiny. Especially stuff you  thought was lame, ineffective or dull.

Literature classes are great, but I have to admit I don't think they're a requirement. Maybe because I didn't take many myself. Movies are also great for studying a lot of techniques relatively quickly -- but books are not movies.

The purpose of training is to show your gut how to express itself by exposing it to both good and bad expressions. Then you have to let it express itself.

This is the tough part. Personally, I wanted some proof my gut had a clue about what it kept insisting is "right."

This is why betas are priceless. They can tell you if your gut is pointing you in the right direction. They can tell you what your gut is good at and what it's not so good at. Where you can trust it and where you need to go back with your brain and revise the story to work better.

Because you're going to find that your brain and your gut are at odds, often. But antagonism is dynamic, so let 'em fight it out.

Those things that your betas keep bringing up, keep asking for more of, are the things your gut needs to work on. Maybe you're not letting your gut speak freely. Maybe your gut's strengths are in other places. Maybe your gut is having trouble finding the right words and mechanisms to express itself (as in, it needs more training.)

Personally, my readers keep asking for more of my characters' thoughts and emotions to get onto the page. They want that subjective voice, and they're happy when my gut produces it. For whatever reason, objective voice comes easily to me. It's part of why I gravitate toward science fiction -- that voice is more acceptable in that genre. When I write fantasy, it's something of a problem.

Is my Talent lacking? Am I just holding my gut back? (shrugs) Learning is a continuous process. I'll keep working at it, either way.


Bluestocking said...

Learning to trust your gut is one of the hardest aspects of writing, imo. If I like a story I wrote, is it because it's good, because I wrote it, because it's better than other stories I've written, because one aspect of it I nailed which makes it easier to overlook all the other problems? And so on. Learning how to parse all that out is important and still trips me up. But educating yourself and sharing your work with others can help narrow things down -- at least it has for me.

D.G. Hudson said...

I always go with the gut feeling. It has served me well. In writing and in life, we need to trust our own intuition more than we do.

When taking a self-defense course years ago, on how women can defend themselves with a few tricks, (taught by ex-policemen), they said their best advice was to "go with your gut feeling" and avoid anything that felt wrong, or made you feel uncertainty. I took another Karate general course where they told us what to poke, step on, etc.

Good post subject. Thanks for sharing.

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