Thursday, 20 February 2014

#writerproblems: This damn door sticks

I have a problem: I can't write doors.

Well, actually, I can write doors just fine. Doors, gates, thresholds, eldritch wormholes of nether terror. Portals of any kind, right here. What I can't do is get my characters through the blessed things. I don't get writer's block very often, but when I do it's usually because one of my characters is stood outside a door he or she needs to go through.

It's a particular problem in The Second Realm for some reason. Now, The Second Realm has 'the perilous threshold' as a major thematic element - every crossing between the First and Second Realms in the story is supposed to be frightening and potentially lethal, and to be representative of more metaphorical crossings as well. But while I can usually engage pretty well with those kinds of portals, more mundane doors get me really stuck.

For example, right now I'm stalled badly on the next episode because a character has to go into another character's bedroom to wake him up because there's a crisis and I just. Can't. Write it. I've called up the Word file enough times that I can picture the text exactly; the character knocks quietly, waits for a response, and -

There are a few reasons why I might struggle. I think I find it difficult when a character enters a new environment to sort out which details to mention first - there's a whole new room to introduce, without breaking the flow of the story. It's difficult to whittle that down to the (at most) one-paragraph space it has to fit into. I've always had a bit of a problem with environmental detail anyway - a friend of mine once told me that one of my first novels read like a prolonged phone conversation, so little sense of setting did he get from it - so this is certainly part of the problem.

Another part is my own anxiety problems. I find it quite nervewracking to be at an unfamiliar door and to enter unfamiliar environments. Heck, on bad days it can be quite nervewracking to come home to my own front door (I live in a shared house, and occasionally get quite anxious about contact with my housemates - this is not a rational illness). Some of that anxiety will, of course, creep into even my most confident characters.

But even when there are no contextual reasons to worry about going through a door, I tend to make a meal of it. There's a scene in the final episode of season 2 where Rel and Pevan have to get into a room where there are some hostile agents, and I remember going into intense detail about exactly how they got the door open and how Rel went through it. The rest of the action is heavily truncated and summarised, but I had to know exactly how they handled the door.

So I'm wondering if other writers feel the same way about doors, or if you have other equivalent sticking points. And if you do, do you have any tips on how to deal with them? Because seriously, 'Guys, I forgot how to door' is a terrible reason for missing publishing deadlines...

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry, I know it's not funny--I do know, I've been there, with doors, too, and other stuff--but... you made me laugh. "I forgot how to door"? :D Funny how our own neuroses slip into not just our characters but the way we handle setting, and even the way we progress from first to final drafts. As I read (and laughed) I thought about how I deal with it, and whether that might help you, and then, in the next-to-last paragraph, bam! You have the solution already. When a scene is stumping me because of action-related stuff--door or no door--I write it out in maximum detail. How did the doorknob feel? What sort of paint did the door have? Did it creak or open soundlessly? What do we see as the door opens? Where's the source of light? What's in shadow? What's moving? What do we smell? What do we hear? Do we hesitate--and if so, why--or do we move forward confidently? Most of the time not even 1% of this detail will find its way to my final draft (or, let's be honest here, even my second draft), but I do it because the reason I'm stumped is because I can't visualize the scene properly. All the detail will help me visualize it, but also will help me translate the vision properly into words so the reader can visualize it, too.

    Hope this helps. And thanks for the chuckle--much needed today :)

    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter