I was listening to a saleswoman talking about being invisible to customers the other day and it suddenly struck me what a good point she had. Authors can be invisible while writing and it can be quite helpful.
I tried to make myself invisible, but I ended up looking like a vampire.
Write a scene and then stop to observe for a moment. Step inside the story and take note of each point you or your character has made.
Let’s say you’ve written a scenario where your character is going to have a confrontation with someone. You’ve described where this is going to take place, but have you mentioned what might be giving your character the feeling that something is wrong before the confrontation?
While your character might be watching out the window, trying to decide what to do next, put her/him in “Freeze” mode. In your mind, you step into the scene. Look around. See what your character sees that you might not have mentioned yet. Does she see a shadow under the tree in her yard? Does she see a pile of cigarette butts outside her door? Is there a muddy footprint on her porch?
There’s always the possibility none of this will work. Let your character, with you on her heels, take a walk in the park late at night, or through an empty warehouse. Put her/him in “freeze” mode again.
While she or he is standing quietly, you (the Invisible Author) can go anywhere you want to and you can plant some clues. On the other hand, you can decide to let your character be taken completely by surprise. You’ll probably still want to look around and see what will show up in the scene though. It won’t be just two people confronting each other. The surroundings are part of the scene.
The fact that you can put everything on Hold while you snoop around and search for things to make the scene unique can be interesting. I did it in Old Murders Never Die. There was a ghost town called Wolf Creek in the story and I had the opportunity to survey the entire place in my mind while I wrote the book. I even drew myself a map so I‘d know where every building and house sat. I was able to figuratively walk through deserted buildings and streets and see what people had left behind over a hundred years earlier. It was fun being the invisible observer, and it made writing the book more interesting, too.
Taking this a step farther, if you’re a reader you might enjoy being an invisible observer, too. You can mentally yell, “Look out!” at a character and, although you’re standing right behind them, they won’t hear you. It’s one more way to be interactive with the story you’re reading.
Another way you, as the Invisible Author, can add to your story is to watch what people are doing, often unintentionally. Maybe your character is in a restaurant asking someone prying questions and the person is nervous. Watch as they fold and unfold their napkin, or tap their fingers on the table top. They could be chewing on their lip, or their eyes could be darting nervously around the room. Maybe this person spills their iced tea when, with shaking hands, they set it on the table. Small actions can be very important.
These are simple things, but as the Invisible Author there’s a whole vista of things or mannerisms open to you. If this isn’t something you already do, then give it a try. As the Invisible Author you might even kick the bad guy in the shins, although he won’t feel a thing. Scratch that and let a dog bite him on the ankle and run away.
Have you been unconsciously snooping in your own book? Are you finding or planting clues your character may have missed? Are you boldly walking around the setting for a scene? Rub your hands together and get busy.
Until next time, enjoy the world of fiction and figure out what you can add to it to make it more memorable.
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Love a good ghost town story? Try Old Murders Never Die – A Sandi Webster Mystery. It’s an oldie but a goodie.