Charles Colp

Reading for Writers

Charles Colp
Reading for Writers

Let’s face it, most of us began as super fans of one writer or another. We devoured everything they wrote. We waited in lines to get the latest book so we could be the first to read the next installment. Whatever the case may be, we are readers first. The problem with this method of teaching ourselves to write, is we often feed our brains from the same trough as millions of other writers. Whether it be the next Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling.

The hardest thing to do is reminding yourself there are so many other styles, so many other genres, so many other humans that write well. Many of my friends suffer through the writing blinders they have imposed on themselves. This is especially true of male readers who refuse to read a romance novel. The lack of exposure to this other world of writing a love scene is lost on them. It shows, even in well known published authors. The male love scene is so often about what it feels like, what it looks like, what it does for them. There are very few male writers willing to write about how the scenario makes their character feel. I am not a psychologist, but I am willing to bet it has something to do with perceptions and gender insecurities. Men aren’t supposed to feel more than four or five emotions and rarely are those emotions allowed to conflict or even cohabitate during a single scene.

I know writing this, half of my readers are scoffing at the idea. Their love scenes are different. Their values are far superior to the hindbrain activity and are of an elevated nature. The idea that there is something wrong with describing a woman’s breast as anything more than the direct object of desire would not even register.

I am not more elevated than my peers, I am not better in anyway. I am however aware that this exists. There is a simple test for any reader to see the other side of things. Read a novel written by the opposite sex, in a genre you would have never read, and judge the differences. Not whether they are good or bad, but whether they convey a different feeling. Two writers can write about deep passion and even the exact same scene, but if it was directly pointed out, very rarely would a reader realize they were both describing the same act. A characters emotions are key and women are just as human as men. Writing the damsel in distress scenario takes on a very different meaning when she was just about to pick the lock herself instead of pining for a big strong man to save her. I have never met a woman that wouldn’t fight and figure out a way to save herself.

In the interest of stopping the cardboard cutout of women in novels versus the fully fleshed out 3-D male superhero. Remember we are all members of the same human race. We just might approach problems and pleasure from a different viewpoint.

Confidence in Writing

Charles Colp
Charles Colp and friend singing poorly.

I Was talking to a friend who writes regularly, but doesn’t post it anywhere. He is safe behind his walls as an unknown writer. His work is good. The imagination he displays, would put most writers I know to shame. There is only one thing I can see in his writing that needs work, confidence. He chooses safe phrasing, doesn’t stray outside the sandbox of words his computer says are correct. I realized how much this translated from his personality, to his writing when he was reviewing something for me.

Him: What is Schmraugh? That isn’t a word is it?

Me: My character sure seemed to think it was.

Him: How does the reader know that though?

Me: If you drop something heavy on your foot and you yell something in Russian, I am pretty sure everyone would get the point.

Him: Yeah, it just wouldn’t leave my spell checker, so I thought I would ask.

His work just needs that punch. Not necessarily made up words, but a more open approach to how people communicate. Slang words may be difficult, but if you listen close to the frame of reference, you will understand the context. It can really add to a characters individuality. It can even be used as an identifier as to who is talking without having to end every line with “He said jokingly.”

It is possible to take this too far and make your character unintelligible, but generally a specific set of made up words won’t hurt the readability.