Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"It's About Who They Are not What They Are"

Howdy Folks,
Writing, people and horses always seem to go together for me. One of the novels I'm working on, "Coming Home" opens with the scene of the protagonist, Billie, sitting at the end of her parents' farm lane, pausing, thinking just a moment before driving in. We visit reuniting with family, and an old friend drops by too. Midway through the first chapter, in a scene set in a diner, Billie learns there's big trouble and tension builds quickly. Now modern, conventional wisdom has it that everything prior to the diner scene should be cut, and the story should start with the "action, or tension."
 Today everyone wants to start with the "action." You even see it in the current movies and TV shows that start with explosive action, then drift into flashbacks. How many times have we seen, "Three days earlier" on the screen, or in a book? Sure the action might be gripping, but if you think about it, it's action for action's sake. It's rarely compelling, so the writer needs to "take you back," so you can get to know and feel for the characters. And truly care about them. 

I like to do things a little differently. Publishers, editors and agents tell us, "If you start your story with reflection, contemplation or a character pondering it will not be published." Or read. I took that advice when my novel "We'll Have The Summer" was published, and I will forever regret the readers never saw the opening paragraphs that were cut to "start with the action." The readers missed out on tender, precious thoughts Mary Holt had looking out the kitchen window above the sink. Oh sure, I tried to weave those emotions in later, but the reader would have known who Mary was in the first paragraph on a deeper level.

I agree a story can't start with a ton of baggage, or back story. But I also believe that the need to start with tension, action, momentum is somehow a sign of our over stimulated time. To me it feels like too often it's about the "what" not the "who." And the "who" is important.

In fact, I believe that "who" is much more important than "what." In a story, in life, and with our horses. I believe when working with our horses it is far more important to get to know "who" they are before we begin to "train" them. That's another word I'm not too fond of, "training." Better than some of the other words used, but still very much in the world of "what" instead of "who."

If we take the time to allow our horses to tell their story, if we listen to their opening paragraphs of reflection, contemplation we will know them more deeply. That will allow us to have an understanding of "who" they are instead of "what" they are. Which will make possible a deeper, richer form of communication that will make sense to both the horse and the human.
Kessy & me lovin' the moment
To me taking the time to learn who a person, character in a novel, or a horse is, is time well spent. It's the fundamental building stone for everything that follows. It's about who they are, not what they are.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Dutch, that all these "rules" about how we're supposed to write are a bunch of hoo-ee - some of them, that is. I was thinking the other day after reading someone's post about never used adverbs, how absolutely ridiculous a rule that is. A word is a word and if an adverb can convey a sense or a feeling when attached to another, then so be it.