Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trigger Writing: The Art and Craft of Trusting Your Readers

Since I write short pieces, like blog posts, graphic novels and YouTube video scripts, I strive to use words with maximum impact.  So I was drawn to Bernadette Pajer's workshop on Trigger Writing:  The Art and Craft of Trusting Your Readers
A "trigger" in this case, is a carefully crafted description or nugget of information that will unleash the reader's imagination.  Therefore, the author is relieved of having to write EVERYTHING.  That putting words on the page is not the story, but its the reader's imagination that creates the story.
The nuggets-of-info I thought of for this post deal with handguns.  The term "pistol" can be too vague and generic.  But if I wrote:  "She drew a Broomhandle Mauser from her purse..."  the reader, especially a firearm aficionado may imagine a scene like this...
(Image from:  Lupin III)
Whereas, if I wrote:  "Han Solo yanked his heavy blaster pistol from his holster..." the reader, especially Star Wars fans, would imagine a scene like this...
In both examples, knowing who the primary readers would be, alleviates the need for detailed descriptions of the weapons involved.  Which, thanks to the Star Wars prop-masters, is a modified version of the C96 Mauser...
Movie special effects nuggets aside, Bernadette started the session by quoting Chris Humphreys:  "Words are energy compressed by the author and released by the reader."
Or in Bernadette's own words:  The writer only provides a portion of the story.  The reader unpacks the story and embarks on an emotional journey.
A successful journey requires a degree of trust.  You must trust yourself as a writer--and trust the reader.  If your writing sounds boring to you--it will certainly be boring for the reader.
This makes triggers, he ultimate in "Show don't tell."  They can be used in one of three ways:  Description, action and gestures.  Subtext, or "story questions," are another form of triggers and there can be setting subtexts, character subtexts and situational subtexts woven throughout the story.
Triggers allow the reader to participate in the unfolding of the story.  Writers need to think of the story as a journey and where they want the reader to be and what they want the readers to be thinking of along the way.
The challenge is to determine what the writer provides and what the reader brings to the story.  Think about what triggers your imagination as a reader--and then write about it.
Bernadette then finished her workshop with Elmore Leonard's Ten Tips to Writing:
1. Never open a story with the weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" as a tag-line in dialogue.
4. Never modify "said" with an adverb.
5. Minimize the use of exclamation points.
6. Never use "suddenly," or "all Hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed description of characters.
9. Avoid detailed description of setting.
10. Leave out the part that readers skip (most often setting descriptions).
As an FYI aside:  I came across G6CSY, which on this page, lists all the books/movies/TV shows that the C96 appears in.

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