word craft


You must remember this …

ItThe Man Who Was Poe may seem bizarre to sug­gest it, but when writ­ing a nov­el, one of the most cru­cial things to have is mem­o­ry, mem­o­ry of what you your­self have writ­ten. There are sim­ple mix-ups, such as when a char­ac­ter says to anoth­er char­ac­ter, “Let’s meet at sev­en, “ and you for­get and have the meet­ing at six. That kind of thing is easy. Most editors—or sure­ly, your copy editor—will pick that up. 

(In one of my books, The Man Who Was Poe, the pro­tag­o­nist, Edward, was mak­ing a fran­tic pur­suit in a boat. A copy edi­tor kind­ly point­ed out that by my hav­ing Edward only tack­ing the boat to the left, he was going around in circles!) 

Much more com­plex are the sub­tle ele­ments of char­ac­ter that you intro­duce, and need to use more than once to estab­lish that char­ac­ter as a liv­ing cre­ation. Charles Dick­ens was a mas­ter at this. It’s not enough to use char­ac­ter­is­tics at a giv­en moment to move the plot for­ward. They need to be used to estab­lish the char­ac­ter even more. Does the char­ac­ter have a keen sense of smell? A lin­guis­tic tic? Left hand­ed? A way of look­ing at things? Good writ­ing makes use of these things. 

As with those char­ac­ter­is­tics that con­sti­tute who you are—over a long life—these ele­ments are vital in what you write over a long book. 

Can you remem­ber that?

1 thought on “You must remember this …”

  1. I think a writer must also take into con­sid­er­a­tion that they might have used the same metaphor from the book. I catch myself doing that some­times. I guess reread­ing your own mate­r­i­al helps with that too! I did­n’t real­ize you wrote that book. I read it about sev­en or eight years ago.


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