Friday, June 15, 2007

Inside and outside a scene

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the evening with the Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle in Coalville. They are enthusiastic, well organised and a joy to be with. I was supposed to be there as a tutor, leading a writing workshop, but as is usual with these events, I ended up learning a load of stuff myself.

When I am writing, I try to put myself into the scene. In other words, I imagine I am there, standing in the place the protagonist is standing, feeling what they are feeling. When the protagonist moves, I sometimes find myself acting out the movement – perhaps reaching my hand as if I was going to pick something up. When in this state – really in the scene – I find the words come naturally and the writing tends to be more vivid. If I feel the things the protagonist is feeling, hopefully my readers will too.

The thought that came to me yesterday, when preparing the workshop, was that perhaps I am doing this because I don’t have a very visual mind. I do find it difficult to picture scenes in my head. Therefore I place myself inside the scene, relying more on tactile and emotional senses than visual ones. Could it be that other writers are so visually able that they are seeing the scenes they describe from the outside – watching it on the cinema screen of their minds?

And then comes the follow-up question. It is a thought experiment. If two writers, similar in most respects, were to describe the same scene, but one imagined herself in it and the other imagined viewing it from outside, would the two descriptions feel different? Or perhaps it would be more helpful to ask whether the writing of people who habitually place themselves inside scenes will have noticeable differences from the writing of people who habitually look in on scenes from outside.

Any thoughts on this would be warmly welcomed.