I have tried at least three times to start Elizabeth George’s book Write Away. I have been interested enough every time, but never gotten very far before being distracted by life.
I used to read only non-fiction primarily for that reason: you can quit at any point and (honestly) not be missing anything. After all, I made it this far in life without the information, and so I should continue to do at least as well when I go on.
The one thing I latched on to from her book (and I do adore this) is the abbreviation THAD for Talking Head Avoidance Device. That is, anything– a fist fight, a walk, a crying baby to settle– that breaks up a conversation with some measure of action to keep it from being nothing but a talking-heads scene.
Because of that I think in terms of THADs. I need to convey information here. What can I use for this scene’s THAD?
I love writing arguments– maybe because I avoid them in real life, or maybe because I get to feel clever no matter who wins because I’m writing both sides. But creating an argument with a believable THAD is a challenge– and I feel like I’m running out of new ones.
I have two (unwritten) scenes that I’ve cut from the outline because, despite the engaging argument itching to happen, I have no THAD to hand.
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What follows is a near stream-of-consciousness exploration into a very emotional event where I felt both threatened and in-control– and that’s sort of my definition for a scene that is engaging (never mind what it might say about me. It works for now).
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When I was 18 I worked after school in an elementary school library.
I was more oblivious than I am now, and still wonder if the young adult guy who worked there thought he was flirting with me. All I can remember, honestly, is that the fellow was alternately fun and creepy.
On one of the creepy days he was hanging around the workroom where I was repairing books (read: my back is to the room, and therefore him).
In his defense, this was where the extra computers were, so at least he had a purpose to be there.
He came up behind me and snapped a pair of scissors open and shut behind my ponytail. I turned and snatched the scissors from him, doubtless with fire in my eyes. My heart was beating like crazy and I can’t remember if I wanted to hit him or run for my dad (who worked just down the hall).
To his credit the fellow backed off, but he was full of “lighten up” and “What’s the problem?” responses.
What he couldn’t have known (and I don’t think I told him) was that earlier in the day I’d been in Government class where I sat several times a week with my high school bullies: a collection of girls who spent the between-classes times attacking my personhood.
Which on one level was eye-rolling in its immaturity, and on another frustrating because I hated how effective their attacks were.
That morning I was (as usual) in my own little world, trying to ignore the rude girls.
And then I heard scissors behind me. Just as I *knew* R wouldn’t have the nerve to actually cut at my hair, I believed these girls would take my whole ponytail.
I spent the 90-minute period trying to pay attention, take notes, and pretend chewing on the end of my hair was a way of concentrating and not a defensive act.
Having a second, identical “attack” in the same day, from a person I knew how to confront (I have always found it easier to confront males than females), I was completely primed and he got the brunt of it.
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So there’s the story behind the latest THAD I’ll be playing with for my novel: I think somebody’s going to lose some hair.
Hey – just hopped over here from Randy’s blog. I like the idea of THAD’s, but I’m not sure why they’re necessary for every scene. What’s wrong with a page or two of just dialogue? It can move the story along quite quickly and then the characters get back to doing something.
I think the idea of THAD is tied in my mind to creating setting. I really want the throne room of one kingdom to be distinguishable from the other. If there’s just a bunch of dudes standing around talking… I can’t see that being enough of a reason for a new scene.
If they aren’t doing anything the information can be implied or given in a different conversation where something is happening. At least, that’s the way I imagine it.
I was talking to my SIL about writing and saying one of my frustrations about it is similar to weightlifting: just because I understand the physiology of the body lifting (say) 85-100lbs, doesn’t mean I have the capability to do it.
And in the same way I “know” all sorts of things that I should be doing, and even how they should be done, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually capable of it. *Yet.*
This was the most valuable lesson I learned in my college screenwriting class. Dialogue HAD to happen during ACTION or the TV audience would be bored. It sharpened up my dialogue and action skills like nothing else. I like having a name for that now – THAD.
Also, I love your scene inspiration, and I love the idea of using that in the story.
Hee Hee Hee. I think this hair cutting thing. I can’t wait to see how this turns out!
Ooooh. I can’t wait to see whose hair gets the chop! :)
I love this concept though. I get really annoyed by lots of dialogue. I feel that unless it’s done well, it really can bog down the story. Love the idea of a THAD!
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