Writing Update: Draft 2 & How to Impersonate Anyone

Only a week-ish late, I finished Draft 2 of Fox Story! (Not only was I late, I had to focus only on stream-lining the plot, leaving character arcs and setting / world-building for another draft). I drastically over-estimated the amount of work I could get done in February, especially since I spent almost a week of it sick!

SO, as I begin to incorporate critique partner comments on what I’ve created, I’ll start working on Draft 3, which will be anything else plot-related with some character focus thrown in. I’m entering the busiest time at work so this draft will probably take me a month or two, and that’s all right.

Now that my little update is out of the way, I had one other thought on writing, inspired by—of all people—Alec Baldwin. When he was interviewed about his SNL Trump impersonation, he said something interesting. That it isn’t the physical similarities of an impression that matter the most, as everyone thinks. Rather, it’s finding something about the person that makes them who they are, and embellishing that.

He described the reality TV star as “a perpetually failing thesaurus, always searching for a better word and coming up with nothing.” Which is why phrases like, “We have good people, fantastic people, and working with them is going to be….fantastic!” are so funny. Of course, adding a suit and a wig helps, but many times it’s a quirk about a person that creates your “oh!” moment of recognition. It’s why anyone who has worked in a cube can groan over the same characters in Office Space, or why we’d guess “Sherlock Holmes” if someone said “The game is afoot!” during charades.

Many set designs for stage plays incorporate this, latching on to one key, realistic piece and allowing your mind to fill in the gaps of the characters’ world. When you first enter the theater it seems so bare bones, and by the end of the show you hardly notice that.

The same principle can apply to writing! When you make a character, or describe a place, it’s choosing the best detail that strikes the chord of realism in the reader. Rather than describing every item in the room or every fidget or look from a character, you hone in on the one thing that people instantly recognize in their own group of family, friends, and coworkers. Not lazy writing, but strategic writing.

A great example of this is Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. The Dregs have their own slang: “No mourners, no funerals” and “the deal is the deal” to illustrate not only their bonds within the gang but how their speech differs from upper class merchants. The longer we spend in that world, the more nuance is added to these phrases and they can be used to heighten seemingly ordinary moments into conversations with tension.

So when you sit down to write and create, consider the best way to make that impression stick in the reader’s mind. This is something I’m going to practice in my own stories, and honestly, I think it’s a fun way to study people, too!

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