Breathable Text

Every book teaches me something. Even the books I hate teach me what I want to avoid in my personal writing.

I might rage about certain aspects of the story or throw the book across the room when I’m done with it (if I have it on hard copy instead of Kindle, of course) but in the end I always learn something.

Perhaps the most humbling moment is when I pick up a novel that I wrote years ago and see, quite clearly, everything I did wrong. There’s nothing more heartening or heartbreaking than that moment.

Heartening because it means I’m growing as an author and my craft has improved. Heartbreaking because the text I loved so much back then … I kinda loathe now.

I’ve come to expect this moment in the writing process so when I picked up Persona to begin editing I had myself braced for impact, you know? But sometimes the “impact” is really a “click” in the brain that recognizes a broader problem and I sit back and go … “Oh, I get it now!”

The proverbial light coming on in the brain.

The moment in school when algebra suddenly made sense.

Or, in this particular case, the realization that my text isn’t breathable. It isn’t livable. The character might be sympathetic, a woman I admire and want to emulate in my real life sometimes because she is so kind and she does overcome her own fear while facing down terrible circumstances, but the narrative itself doesn’t breathe.

I’ve identified this as a “lens” problem.

A “lens” problem in the writing world is a matter of distance between the character and the narrative. In this case, my lens was too tight on Megan and I wasn’t taking into account the setting, tone, or secondary characters.

On the one hand, this makes Megan very clear as a character but it also makes the world feel flat.


I’m adding to my writing toolbox today and throwing the “narrative lens” in there as a means of bringing the world and setting to life. Don’t get tunnel-vision with the character because the character is informed and influenced by the world around them.

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