Floating Heads and Writing Desks

floating heads.jpgHave you ever heard of floating head syndrome?  I’ve heard it called talking head syndrome too.  It’s when the characters in a book are exchanging dialogue, but the author rarely mentions where the speakers are or what they are doing.  Without these little descriptive beats sprinkled in it feels like the characters are floating in the void while having conversations.

It’s a tap dance we do with the reader.  Give too many beats and the dialogue doesn’t flow, don’t give enough, and the reader doesn’t have a clue what the characters are doing while they are talking.  There’s a few ways to tackle the problem.

First, read the dialogue aloud and see how it flows. Next, you could also open some of your favorite books and look at how the pro’s did it.  If you are still undecided, ask someone to read a chapter or section. Once they finish, ask them what the characters were doing in the chapter.  If they’ll oblige you, ask them where the characters were as well. If the reader just shrugs their shoulders in response—it might be time to tweak those beats.

While this is good to know, it’s not why I’m writing today.  Sometimes I feel like we are all floating heads when I read blogs.  Even my own.  “Who is this writer?  Where are they writing from?  Is this blog written by a person or a futuristic artificial intelligence?” Corey wondered as he swiveled in his black office chair.

writers desk

So today I thought I would share where this blog gets written from—my writing desk.  It’s a normal desk, in a normal house, manned by a normal adult male.  However, it has the ability to let me reach out and touch the other side of the planet with my words.  It’s also the place where I create worlds, and if I want to, destroy them.  Pretty neat.

[Editor’s Update]

Writing Desk.jpgI wrote this post months ago and things have moved about in my study.  I didn’t like the cramped feeling of being surrounded.  The photo below is my new setup. It lets me spin about in my chair like a madman without bashing my legs. I also like how much it opened up the room. I wrote a post about how a writing environment can alter your productivity a while back.  This shift really bolstered my own process.

Whats your writing desk look like?  Do you have one?  Or are you a mobile master taking your work with you wherever you go?  Until tomorrow.  Keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Public or Private: Writing & Environment

Many of us have a vision of what a writer should look like.  At least, what they look like while they are working.  Maybe you see a woman in the coffee shop who pounds away on an oldschool, manual typewriter.  Perhaps you envision a man smoking cigarettes, drinking brandy, and clicking away on a computer in a crowded corner of his house surrounded by books and papers.  For some, it could be a cottage overlooking a lake with a sweating glass of sweet tea as a companion (I want that…someday).

man-writing-at-desk

Image courtesy of NY Public Library Digital Collections.  (My favorite place to final public use images.) 

 

Some of these visions are based on real people we have seen become successful. Others are built from what we observe in television and movies, or read about in books.  Ultimately, many of us model our writing environment around these examples.  Just go to the local coffee house to see this in action.

As I have become more serious about my own writing, I’ve been thinking more and more about the space I work in.  What environment best compliments someones ability to be creative and push out words?

Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, offered his opinion:

“The space can be humble (probably should be, as I think I have already suggested), and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut.  The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk” (p. 155).

elephant house.jpgOn the flipside, in Marc Shapiro’s book, J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter, Rowling is attributed as saying, “Writing and cafés are strongly linked in my brain” (p.77).  This makes sense seeing how her first two Harry Potter books were supposedly written in The Elephant House, a coffee and tea shop in Edinburgh.

From what I’ve found, some people write better while experiencing the world and others write better shut off from it and creating their own.  I feel the takeaway here is the ability to shut, or open, the door.  Whether the door is a heavy physical thing, or a mental one, it’s important to be able to be focus in a way that allows you to create.

In this way, I really do think environment matters  Just take a look at your current projects.  How many words are coming and are you meeting your writing goals?

the-kiss-of-the-museIf your answer is, yes, then you may have just read this whole post for no reason.  But if your answer is, no, have you ever tried changing your environment for a week or two and seeing if those numbers change?  Maybe isolation isn’t your game.  Maybe the muse isn’t interested in co-sharing a room with you.  Sorry.  I doubt it’s personal.  For you public space writers, maybe the muse is too distracted by the hustle and bustle of your surroundings to deal with you.

Whatever your deal is, the end goal should be taking the story marinating in your head and converting it into words on paper.  If something is stopping you from accomplishing this, change it.  If you can’t figure out what “it” is, maybe try a change of scenery and see if this knocks the gears loose.

photo-for-human-legion

That’s me!

For me, I have a study, noise cancelling headphones, and a daily writing schedule.  I could drag my butt in front of the computer and type in my pajamas if I wanted to—especially as a stay-at-home dad and freelancer—but I don’t.  I don’t write or work effectively like this.  If I’m approaching the job of writing half-assed, then I write half-assed.  If I eat, change into “outside people” clothes, and hit the keyboard, the words make their way out easier.  My mind knows it’s time to at least act like I’m a pro.

question-markFake it until you make it I guess.  What’s your daily grind looking like these days?  What environment encourages the best results from you?  Do you know any stories or accounts of authors who thrive in bizarre writing environments?  I’d love to hear about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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