By Annette Rey
Let’s call the piece you are constructing a living body of work and think in those terms, a whole unit composed of dependencies and interconnections and interactions.
Body of work = the whole piece
Living body of work = one piece, breathing, experiencing, projecting, inviting, moving
But it can’t function without its parts which are listed in the analogies that follow:
Skin – is the outside, the covering, the overview.
Muscles – are the firmer underside of the skin, the action organ, the antagonist and protagonist of your story. These are the units that deliver their responses from the nerve stimulations.
Nerves –are the supporting characters and circumstances that stimulate muscles. If they are weak, they are not supplying the necessary stimuli to your lead characters. Supporting characters and circumstances are there as props to further the action of your main characters who perform the resulting action.
Ligaments/tendons (in the old days, the sinews) – are the hold-it-together connecting substances that comprise the main idea of your story. Hold your antagonist and protagonist to the bone – the supporting, central base of your story.
Vessels – These are the avenues used to deliver a myriad of necessary nutrients to the body of your story, i.e. descriptive dialogue and scene, red herrings, inner and external conflict, character desire and vulnerability, their secrets and mistakes. And more.
Bone – is the structure, the base, the central plot. It must be strong to support the length of the body.
Heart – is your dedication to pump the nutrients. Determine if they will be romantic, sweet, insidious, evil, righteous, whatever you say. Feed your story.
Brain – Ah, the brain! The brain is YOU! It is the seat of motivation for your story. It is the boss of all the parts. Even if your entire work fails because of weak ligaments, nutrients, bone, you are left with the brain. Do not discard the entire body. It IS a good idea. Keep it for later. Improve it now. The idea is your birth child and it does have value. Believe in yourself.
Voice – is the impalpable essence that lies beneath all the words written to impart the story to your reader. Voice is what grips your reader and draws him into the temporary world you want to share with him. This is, perhaps, the hardest part to create for your piece because it can be different with each of your works. You must command this area and examine it closely as you move along your storyline. The voice is the you that you are at the moment for the particular piece you are writing. Expand on that. Think of Rebecca, written by Dame Daphne du Maurier. The story is told in the voice of the young, insecure, uncertain, fearful, hesitant, inexperienced, second wife of Maxim. The voice in the story changes as she is challenged by the experiences facing her, by realizations that occur to her, and finally by her overpowering desire (and love) to save her husband. Be true to the voice you are placing in and over your story. It is not only maybe the hardest thing to get right, but it certainly is the most important thing your reader hears.
Emotions – are the varying moods of this living body of work. These are the feelings you are projecting at any given time. Are they sufficient for your reader to feel them, too?
Sight – is what your living body sees. Are you amply describing all the components of your story to show its world and its people to your reader?
Auditory/Olfactory/Sensation/Flavor – These are the inclusions that give intensity to your reader’s experience. Can your reader hear silence in a room? Does evil have a scent? Are you showing the amount of pain that is being experienced? What does death taste like? Explore and do not omit these senses from your writing.
If you envision your work as a whole, living object – a being – you can visualize it walking, all of its parts working together, in agreement for its final goal. If you see your work as living, you will more easily catch it when it stumbles, feel where and when it is inconsistent. If you think of your work as a whole, yet in its parts, you will more easily identify what part is lacking, hurting, overdone. Try examining your work and thinking in this vein, no pun intended. This is just yet another tool that may appeal to particular writers who benefit from visualization techniques.
You can help me and our readers by adding more “body” to this work today. Please give me your observations, additions, and views on seeing your work walking.