Seeing the Wind in Revisions

Happy Spring Day, Dark Dreamers,

“I have always maintained that if you looked closely enough you could see the wind—the dim, hardly-made-out, fine debris fleeing high in the air.” Stewart Edward White painted this lovely concept in his book The Mountains. I have loved this light and movement filled portrayal. As I tell my students all the time, write your soul so your audience feels it. That’s what descriptions are. In dark urban fantasy, that’s doubly important as you may be describing a creature no one has met, such as vampires, scions, shifters or ghosts, or an action no audience member has ever, hopefully, experienced, such as having their blood slowly drained from their body or the shifting of their bones and muscles as they become an animal. What senses will engage the most to share the event with the reader? When does detail and description become too much?

But as we’ve discussed here before, very rarely will we hit the artificial obvious images perfectly the first time on the first draft. Try as we may, we have to collect that sand first, before making the castle of our masterpiece. We need to revise and clean and shape until our blood splatters just so, and a kiss captures just the right breath, and the monster’s eyes are just the right shade of hate. If we can’t see it, they won’t feel it. But something happens when we see the wind, we forget to write the world it flows in.

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And the blood flowed and covered everything like a great big red bloody mess…yes, poetry.

What I mean by this is often as writers we can get so fixated on describing the details of the scene, we often simply assume our readers can see the rest of the world as clearly as we can. This doesn’t just limit itself to the physical description of a place or a person, but also the internal workings of characters as well. Why is a character reacting or feeling? What clues can we give our audience? The importance here is our readers often will empathize with our characters if they can believe and feel their motivations and emotions. But that has to be there. On both physical and emotional cues, and that can be hard for an author to spot the lack of both in drafting and revising.

We always see the wind, because we are so intimate with the voices in our heads and the story we’re stitching. We love our baby masterpiece in the making. It’s hard to see their faults or the missing gaps in our writing because our brain autocorrects not only our grammar when we read it, but also the continuity and motivational gaps since it already knows that whether it’s on the paper or not. We see the wind because we gave it life, but often it stays in our eyes and our heads and never makes it to the paper. Our poor audiences, not being psychic and all, has no idea what’s left in our head and is at the mercy of the scraps thrown onto the paper.

This is true not only for fiction writing but also academic writing for my students, memo writing in the office, proposal writing for the government. Writing is writing, for ill or for good. And the best resource stay true for every one of them: other people. People will cheerlead you when you are dragging, kick you in the butt when you need it and be an extra set of eyes and brain for your words. Once they can describe the wind the way you can, then you know you really have something.

I love my critique group who does all of the above for me. They workshop everything from a barely formed idea to a fully written scene. But my best secret weapon is my husband, who is also a writer. We try to perfect each other’s work and point out when the wind is a bit lacking. Recently a local reporter wrote about how we put this idea to use. Here’s a link to that article: Frederick News Post Article

So, my question to you, Dark Dreamers, is who or what is your secret weapon to make you better in what you do?

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About Courtney Sloan

A New Orleans native, Courtney Sloan relocated to the hills of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. There she lives with her husband and fellow author, J.P. Sloan, their son and their crazy German Shepherd pup. Adding to her writing life, Courtney is also a professor at the local college and enjoys learning a world of new ideas from her students as she teaches them about writing and communicating. Courtney’s New Orleans upbringing has left her with a love for the macabre and a flare for the next to normal. She writes speculative fiction with a variety of horror and sass mixed in for flavor. She loves taking the world of politics that haunts us now, and adding the supernatural to create a gumbo of thrills to keep you up at night. A self-proclaimed lover of way too many fandoms, Courtney also loves crafting. From blankets to jams to stories, it’s always better homemade. View all posts by Courtney Sloan

5 responses to “Seeing the Wind in Revisions

  • Camille Ince

    In accomplishing many things I love to do, my secret weapon would be my mother. My mother pushes to me to reach my full potential in whatever task I need to complete. Whenever, I have self doubt she motivates me to keep on going!

    • Courtney Sloan

      Moms are great for this, and I’m not just saying that because Mother’s Day is next month. A good mom is a constant friend and cheerleader when we need it, and a swift kick in the pants when we need that too.

  • Lisa DiGregory

    I am really good at helping people. I love to help others. Working at a place, where I constantly have to answer questions and help people find what they are looking for has helped me. Although working has allowed me to develop this love to help others, I would have to say my secret weapon is my mom. I have grown up watching her always helping. She always puts other needs before her own.

    • Courtney Sloan

      Nature and Nurture coming together in a perfect storm, right. Also, yes, I love the full circle of service. Helping others and seeing their success can undoubtedly lift our abilities and emotions higher than they’d be alone. This is another reason I love teaching and am excited to do it every day.

  • Nigel Blank

    This is an excellent piece. Something that keeps my going is the motivation to make this earth a better place whether it be in a big or small way. The main factor to my fire is my family, I would do just about anything to see them living in an ideal situation.

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