Friday, September 13, 2013

ISO the Beauty of Bologna

by Sue Ann Jaffarian

I'm a natural chatterbox. Always have been. Always will be. I love conversation. With others. With myself. With my cats. I can natter on about most anything and will ask almost any question of anyone.

So it's no surprise that what comes most easily to me in my writing is dialogue.  I can write pages and pages of dialogue with almost no effort. Juggling multiple characters in a single scene - no problem. And I'll even keep them straight and in character with their personalities as I do so.  It's like I hear their voices in my head and am merely acting as a stenographer.

Library Journal even pointed out my skill for chatter in a review of one of my Granny Apples books, so it's official:  One of the best cozy authors for light chatter and low-key humor... – Library Journal (starred review)

What I'm weak on, at least in my opinion, is description. If there is one thing I admire in other writers it's their ability to paint with words. When I'm reading and can actually smell cow dung, hear pain in a scream, taste a salty ocean breeze, and feel the softness of a child's tear stained cheek, I'm in heaven as a reader. And a bit envious as a writer. 

In one of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone novels, Grafton has Kinsey sitting in a kitchen talking to a witness while the person is making a fried bologna sandwich. With beauty and skill, Grafton describes the meat being thrown into the skillet and cooked, complete with sizzling and the aroma of fried fat and salt, so that the reader is salivating and jonesing for the sandwich right along with the detective.  I defy even the most stringent vegetarian not to lick their lips during that scene. I've long forgotten which book it is from and the plot of the book, but I've never forgotten the cooking of that sandwich. It was a condensed but complete tutorial on how to write.

I'm working on it.  Not frying baloney. I haven't cared for baloney since I was a kid. But I'm working on getting that good with my description.

Another skill I'd like to develop is writing serious fiction. I'm known for my light humor, but I'd really like to write a dark, multi layered tale of heartache, suspense, and betrayal. 

Like I said, I'm working on it.


Meredith Cole said...

As a former screenwriter, description can also be difficult for me to get just right, Sue Ann. I get impatient and just want to get on with the story already... Sprinkling just enough throughout a scene (without overloading it) is one my biggest challenges.

Barb Goffman said...

Often, after I finish writing a short story, I'll realize I've included little or no description so I go back and add it in. I've found, as with most things in life, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Robin Spano said...

Great post! Sounds like we have similar goals for things to work on, too.