Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stomp! or Find Timing and Purpose in Writing

I love everything I've ever seen or heard from STOMP. But this video made me think of writing, since that is what I think about so much of the day, right now.

How can six people banging on trash as they hang from a billboard framework on mountaineering ropes make me think of writing?

Well, first, I thought of timing. At the beginning, the musicians are swinging in a rhythm from side to side on their rappelling gear. The the tinkling sounds start coming...soft and really spaced at first, but enough to draw you in, to wait and listen for what you're pretty sure is gonna come next.

And it does.

A few more pitches are added, lower and layered on top of the tinkling. Then a steady bass is pounding and the tinkling becomes the cherry on top to a complex sound of rhythms and pitches that were obviously planned.

Then, just as you start getting into the groove, but before you get bored, the rhythm changes. It slows, it pauses. You hold your breath, wondering what is coming next. Then it builds again and its going faster and faster until you wonder how they do all of this... An amazing, choreographed rhythm that is also melodic and beautiful to watch.

And speaking of watching...

Everything that is on that wire framework has purpose. It's there because it makes a certain sound and adds to the whole musical piece. There are tinkling pieces of metal and bass-making plastic and everything in between. And if it didn't add to the purpose of the musical piece they probably wouldn't have bothered to haul it up four stories, eh?

But then about a third to halfway through the piece, the camera panned out and you can see that the junk, the musical junk actually is attached to the framework in a pattern that spells out STOMP.


So how do I apply this to writing? I've been some revising (big picture stuff) as well as editing (grammar, punctuation, etc.) over the past two months. I know I need to cut down the word count eventually to about 2/3 of what I've written. The writing has to be tight. The extra scenes have to be worth it to keep. The dialog has to be crisp or else it goes. But how do I make sure I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater?


Shannon Hale, a favorite author of mine, said that after the first or second draft, when she's going through the dross, her goal is to make the fun stuff necessary and the necessary stuff fun. Each part needs to serve a dual purpose.

Like and ottoman that has storage inside or that hide-away-sleeper or the chair that flips to become a step stool.

Or like a bunch of trash strung up at the perfect place ... to be within reach of each rappelling drummer as well as spell out "STOMP".

And the timing....

When, after the surgical removal of excess sentences and scenes, the piece just doesn't "sing", then you need to look at timing. Pacing.

That is something you know when you hear it...or read it. But even though I have and "ear" for it, sometimes it is still elusive. It can be hard to find the right pace. My first chapter needs to be ratcheted up in rhythm. I know it, I can sense it, but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do it. A bunch of the info in it needs to be there, but some will need to be slipped in elsewhere.

But where? When? How will it be seamless?

Obviously I'm still working on this. When I figure out the golden mean of pacing, I'll let you know.

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