So I was away in Branson on a writer's retreat and managed not to get any writing done. (In fact, I think any time at the laptop was spent with the Delete key.) Yet I got a ton of information about writing, the business, my project ideas, and associative brilliance just by being around creative people actively being creative and the excitement as they shared the things they were most passionate about. I call this the "popcorn" effect, watching someone light up when they share what matters to them most. It's a total contact high.
The retreat wasn't formally organized so much as mutually-agreed-upon taking care of one another, lapsing into long bouts of silence or loud games of foosball with an almost unconscious pact between folks across a very long table while various taxidermy animals glared down from on high. Everyone chipped-in with the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping trips and the music in this sort of symbiotic amoeba of creative consciousness while snowed-in on a hill overlooking a lake in a moose lodge with 23 YA authors and intermittent Internet and lighting. There were some organized events like Jackson Pearce's live chat shows and the nightly share known as "kindergarten" where we went around the room answering a question of the evening.
One question was about what we love most about other people's writing and what were our own strengths and weaknesses in our own writing; something that came up was that writers felt comfortable either writing kissing scenes or fighting scenes, but never both. That got me thinking about my own writing because I don't really feel comfortable writing either one.
To be fair, that's not 100% true because I'm familiar enough with both karate and kissing that I can make a plausible scene out of the *ahem* blow-by-blow accounts, but really these are both difficult ideas because they are attempting to describe an immediate reaction to something that taps into an area of our lives both instinctual and overwhelming that happens in an instant. By nature, the more words your use to describe it, the longer it takes. (This is why you don't use the word "suddenly" in writing because it steals the momentum of the moment if you require the reader to take the time to read the word "suddenly"!) If it's a lingering kiss or a slow-motion cleave of a sword through someone's innards, which are now "outers", then yes, this can work; most of the time, though, it's one of the hardest things to do well. Like humor. Or Shakespearean dialogue.
After thinking about it for far too long, I concluded that one of my strengths is actually the sensory build-up, the anticipation of the moment; the wanting, the shuddering, the shivering "If Only" that tantalizes just before the "Yes" or "No". Much like the threat of violence or the smell of rain before the storm, it's the moment before the Fall that works best for me.
What do you think are YOUR strengths and weaknesses? What turns YOU on in the books you love most?
Talk about love? Here's the old U2 Batman song set to a new montage of Heath Ledger's Joker. Excellent!
Happy Valentine's Day!