The Importance of BODY LANGUAGE

In your writing. Ok, it was stretch metaphor. Roll with it.

When I first started writing for the newspaper, I was sent out to cover basically whatever the hell was going on that weekend. In college, I tried to balance what I thought was professional writing and creative writing. The newspaper was pretty standard: some female writers, but a general compendium and middle-aged men. I wrote my first piece on a “yarn bombing.” My second was on a candlelight vigil for women who’d lost children in childbirth. My third was on the local arts festival.

I hated writing just about everything because I always felt static. For most of my writing life, “the News” was boring and static, life read off in monotone and statistics spit out like machine tape. Of course, my main job was editing obituaries, so there was little room for creative license there, too.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized “professional” doesn’t mean “boring.” If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m sure you’ve noticed that “sassy” is my favorite style. What? It’s totally a style. Trust me.

When I got the gig doing freelance for Criminal Element, my first piece was a review on Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s newest TV series, versus reading the book. Everyone loved. It was fun. My second, a review on The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice, wasn’t nearly up to snuff. I know that because I hated writing it. It was boring and I knew it.

But I wanted to be professional. I didn’t know how to phrase a review. I revised it and sent it back. It felt better. My latest review went up yesterday, and I couldn’t be happier with it. If you’ve been writing long enough, you can tell when something is your best and when it’s just not there. Not everything has to be super-polished the first time, but if you don’t initially love what you’ve done, then you may want to give it another shot. The best thing you can do is read it aloud. Are you bored? Then so’s your reader.

It doesn’t just apply to journalism or novel-writing.

Sunday, I got the opportunity to table read for three scripts during Cat’s screenplay final. I had an amazing time, made my acting debut, and realized again just how important VOICE is. Without stage visuals, voice is all the “body language” you get (see, I had a point. You should have trusted me.)

I played a sassy Biblical mother in a modernized retelling of Moses setting the Hebrews free from Egypt. It was an amazing script with a great timelessness to it. I heard the voice perfectly.

I played the head demon in Cat’s Faustian bet (which you need to finish. I know you’re reading this.) I tried to be sly and daring. Another great voice.

And then I played someone I didn’t like: a teacher who failed as a writer and basically tried to seduced someone published. When I was given my character motivation, I was told I was the slut, classified in one word. My reason for being in the play was to be “the slut.” I had no other purpose. I gave her voice and tried to give her dimension and though the people in the class told me I did well, I feel cheated. I felt like I had let that character down by not being able to transcend what the author boxed her into.

It’s difficult to be true to voice, or have a voice, when you’re a stereotype. It’s difficult to be true to your writing if you try to bend it into something purposefully edgy, or shocking, or whatever.

This is what it’s like from the reader’s side. You have to see all the perspectives. You have to give each character a voice within YOUR voice. My journalistic/review stuff is not the same voice as my writing, but there are echoes of it. I’m sure that’s some crazy Inception stuff.

In other blog news, if you want some advice on using description in your writing, check out my “How To” post on Pen&Muse.

You can also read my review of Jeremy Robinson’s newest release, XOM-B, over at Criminal Element.It’s very sassy. I promise.

Now back to my rewrite. I’ve gotten some positive feedback on it and I’m delighted with the way it’s headed now. And we carry on…


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