Adele Annesi is an award-winning editor and writer for global Web content and print publications. She worked as a development editor for Scholastic Publishing, and is a fiction and nonfiction book editor, specializing in nonfiction and memoir. As a press correspondent and columnist, Adele writes for newspapers, magazines, blogs and literary journals. Her stories have appeared in The Circle, The Fairfield Review, Hotmetalpress, Miranda Literary Magazine, TheNovelette.com,The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Trillium, the Italian-American literary journal Pyramid and an anthology for Fairfield University. She won Poetic Voices of America's editor's choice award, and presents the editing and writing workshops for libraries and other venues. She is a nominated member of Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Women. She's also working on a new novel. Visit her website at: Adele Annesi, Facebook, LinkedIn, Redroom, Twitter, and Word For Words.
Beauty in the Breakdown:
With the start of autumn, we went into academic mode with the first installment of a series called “Beauty in the Breakdown.” In it we’ll cover how to edit various aspects of a story, long or short, and we encourage your input (see the contact information at the end of this column). In this installment we cover plot.
I recently read an article that has changed my writing—and editing—life. I was stuck on a plot problem and couldn’t figure out how to resolve it. The specifics don’t matter. In essence, the problem was that I couldn’t imagine what happened. Not what should happen, but what had happened, and I couldn’t see it.
Regardless of which hat I’m wearing—that of an editor or a writer—I like to inhabit my work. That’s why I think of characters as people and plot as a story that has already happened, with the people in my story revealing events as we go along. So it was really unsettling to be halfway through a rewrite of my novel and discover that I had a major plot problem. No matter how I tried to shoehorn one of the main characters into when he last appeared on the scene, it didn’t work. Why? I hadn’t taken the time to imagine.
As Providence would have it, I was in Starbucks catching up on some reading when I came across an article in the August issue of The Writer. It was a piece from the magazine archive and written by Stephen King entitled “Use Imagery to Bring Your Story to Life.” And a story with life is what every writer wants, and what every story and the people who populate it need. It’s usually what we’re most likely to infuse during the second of a novel—the “editing” draft—or latter drafts of a short story.
In essence, King’s premise is this: Description is key to imagery. Imagery is essential to story. Story is essential for life. The way to achieve all this is by taking time to imagine.
To apply King’s concept to fix a plot problem is to imagine your way in. Here are snippets of the article, and applications to accompany them:
“…the most important thing that film and fiction share is an interest
in the image…”: Without image there’s no story, at least no story
“Ideas have no emotional temperature gradient; they are neutral.”
There’s a difference between ideas and images. This concept is crucial
in cultivating plot, and it means that the writer must seamlessly
convey ideas that form lasting images in the reader’s mind.
To borrow another maxim, “When the eye is good, the body is full of light,” and so is the writing. The point is to see and to inhabit the scene. To experience it. And experience is the best foundation for writing.
To hone this skill, slow down. And imagine. Make King’s writing prompt your own. “Close your eyes and see…” Imagine the scene you want to convey. Per King, “You opened your eyes too soon.” Close them and try again—give yourself thirty seconds, maybe even a minute. Okay. Go ahead.
To pose an editing query, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.