Monday, March 14, 2011

Celebrating our strengths

"Ugh, I hate writing action scenes."

I've heard that from two different writers this past week. And both times I experienced a glowing sense of schadenfreude. I'm good at action scenes.

Okay, I feel a little obnoxious gloating. But on the flip side, I think writers (or at least, the ones I hang out with!) don't celebrate their strengths enough. We complain about how hard writing is, we complain about stilted dialogue, flat characters, action scenes with complicated choreography. But do we post about how we wrote a really swoon-worthy love scene? Or a beautiful description of the waves washing in on the beach?

I guess, especially as unpublished authors, we don't want to sound arrogant. But we should be proud of the things we do well, especially when we work so hard.

So what are you proud of in your writing? What types of scenes are you good at?

For me, I do like action scenes. Or rather, I'm good at dialogue. I can hear it in my head, the rhythm, the speed, the emotion. I love nothing better than two characters screaming at each other. Or big family dinners with several different, competing personalities thrown in the mix.

I also do setting well. Perhaps because I'm such a visual person. My settings correspond to the mood of my story almost without thought. I'm always conscious of where my characters are, so it's easy for me to add in those details and make them important to the story.

What about you?


  1. I've been told I write good action scenes, too. I guess I'm good at creating tension. I was so happy to hear that because I was actually afraid to write the action scenes. I wanted them to be great and was so happy to get positive responses from them.

  2. It would have to be dialogue for me. I've always been a listener, rather than a talker. As an only child, I spent a lot of time among a lot of adults, and my input was never asked for. So I watched and listened. Beyond being good at it, I also enjoy dialogue. When I start fleshing out story ideas, it's as dialogue. I always joke that I'm a frustrated playwright. :)

  3. Kelly: I think sometimes the scenes we're most afraid of writing are those that we might be best at. We see everything that can go wrong! So happy that you were able to feel good about what you created! The ability to add tension is a great one!

    Andrea: I'm the same way with outlining; I always start writing down snippets of dialogue. Interesting that you can pinpoint what in your life has made you a good listener.

  4. Oh my, writers love to complain, don't we? :-) I think dialogue is also one of my strengths, probably because I have a theater background. And I'm pretty good at humor--at least I hope so!

  5. I suck at description. It's not my strong point at this stage in my career. So, I make it simple and not too fancy. I rock at narration, 'cause I have such a great voice I've been told. In second place would be action, of course, dialogue (because I act out the scenes :)), setting, pacing and plotting.

    Description can kiss my you-know-what! I spend hours tinkering with one stupid paragraph just so it flows and makes sense. That's a real pain.

  6. Anna: We DO love to complain. Perhaps it's because so few people outside of writing really get it and we want to make sure everyone understands how hard we work? =) Ohh, I can see how having a background in theater would help with dialogue. And how great to be good at humor! (I think I am, but my husband tells me I'm not =) ). It's such a hard thing to get right if you don't have it.

    TD: It's so hard to talk about what we're good at without also thinking about we struggle with, isn't it? But I think it's good to know both so we can be better self-critics. Great voice is something writers spend years (decades!) trying to master, so what an asset! And honestly, when it comes to children's writing, minimal description might be an asset too!

  7. I love reading a good action scene and breaking it down. But it's not necessarily my strongest point.

    I'm really good at character voice in dialogue. So of course, this is usually what I write first and then work on the other elements.

  8. I thought I found action scenes easy too... but then I noticed those were the scenes I was revising the most! OTOH, I don't think I'm great at dialogue, but I do think I'm getting better at it. I just have to put more effort into it.

    Hmmm... there must be something I'm good at LOL. Actually, I think I'm good at cadence, how the words and sentences flow. I can hear the music of the words really well in my head without having to read out loud.

  9. Karen: It's interesting. I think there's the things we enjoy reading/writing, there's the things we're good at, and then there's the rest that needs work. =) It's a good strategy, I think, to do the stuff you're good at first, and then worry about the rest.

    GF: Maybe you revise the action scenes the most because you get how good they can be? Or is that putting too positive a spin on it? =)

    You're absolutely right about effort. For me there's things that are effortless, and things that I'm okay at, but I really have to work at. And that's a good thing; at least through effort we can make the writing better.

    Cadence is really important, and, IMHO, helps prose really sing. So nothing to sneeze at!


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