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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And a bit more about texture...

Last week I shared about texture...here are what some other great writers had to say earlier this week on the subject...

...and here is a bit more...

Texture is one of those things that's hard to define but you know it when you see it. I believe it's in the details. A "richly textured" novel brings the reader into the story through details - details that don't bring the reader OUT of the story by being unrelated information where the author wants to squeeze in some research work, but rather details that enhance the story so the reader feels they're "there" with the characters, inside their head, touching, smelling, seeing, hearing, tasting whatever it is the character experiences.

The important part is that the details have to be related to the character, the story, the setting in a way that makes them seem a natural part of the story. One other thought on texture is that as the story progresses, it creates its own history and connectionbetween the character's experience and the reader's. So once the story has progressed a bit, if the character thinks back on something that happened within the context of the story, the reader will have the same memory as the character. There's a connection there, a layer of history they went through together that bonded them. The shared memory adds to the feeling of being in that story world, complete with layers of shared history.

Maureen Lang


I'm not sure what she means by "texture," but my suggestion is to be uninhibited in writing with your own unique writer's voice. Most often the entries I judge have a very bland, generic writer's voice with the writer's "true" voice only coming through in glimpses here and there. It's always amazing when a writer can break through their own psychological barriers and write with complete abandon, with complete freedom and absolutely unhindered.

One book I really liked that taught how to unleash a writer's voice is FINDING YOUR WRITER'S VOICE by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall. Not all the exercises resonated with me, but most of them were terrific to help me define and develop my writer's voice.

Camy Tang


After reading the answers to what we wish we'd known about this business, this question just hit me. It seems so simplistic, and I'm sure the writer didn't mean it that way. In a way, it reminds me of the parable of the seeds - some fall on the path and won't sprout (join writers' groups, but never write), some in weeds and get choked out (polish three chapters and a synopsis over and over, but never finish a book), some on fertile ground and prosper. The fertile ground has the nourishment and conditions necessary, but even there, many seeds don't sprout. It's the seeds that actually soak up the nutrients and sunshine and keep doing so until maturity that prosper.

My answer: Assuming this writer has learned the basics (Story and Structure), study Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. Do the workbook. Read Brandilyn Collin's Getting into Character and many other great books that deal with writing deeper and raising the stakes. Become of student of human nature. Read great books and analyze why they are memorable. Take classes (college, adult education, on-line, at conferences), and apply the lessons to your work. Write, write, write. Persevere. IOW, the hard way, which eventually every writer must do. A very few people are naturally great writers. The rest of us learn by practice, experience and sweating blood over our books.

Too many writers seem to think there's a magic tip to gain the secret of writing something that will attract an agent and an editor and catapult them to their goal, which is to becoming published. That's a fairy tale. Yes, it's discouraging to keep writing and writing with no success, but that could be what it takes.

Sunni Jeffers


By texture, I assume you mean depth and dimension, in character, in plot and in setting. In the interest of keeping it short, I will deal with how to give a character texture.

To do this, don't be satisfied with falling back on stereotypes for characters. Present character in both their external appearance and internal functioning who are complex and even contradictory and a surprise to the reader. In my Bargain Hunters series, I have a blond character who was cheerleader in high school. The cliche would be to make her dumber than a box of rocks. But Kindra is a physics major who still has cheerleader syndrome: she has to bounce three times before she does anything. While to strangers, she might seem to have one blond moment after another, her friends know she is sharper than a Ginsu knife.

Also, in describing characters physically, zoom in and look for details that go beyond a fashion show and giving hair and eye color. A character who is dressed to the nines but has dirt under her nails is intriguing. As you zoom in, look for the bump at the corner of charater's eye. A tiny scar on the upper lip could have a whole story behind it that says something about the character's background.

Mannerisms as well reveal externally what might be going on with the character internally. Maybe you have a character who tugs on her ear everytime she tells a lie. Or one who keep pushing her glasses up even when the don't need to be pushed up.
Get beyond cliches and what is expected, details, details, details. That will give you the texture you are looking for in a character.

Sharon Dunn

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