Looking Away – Lessons in Writing from My Infant Son

I had the great pleasure of relearning about writing from my son, Brycen, while at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina the other day.  My wife and I tried to point out various fish, eels, sharks and rays in the tank, but Brycen wouldn’t look where we pointed.  It was very frustrating trying to take pictures when he was always looking the other way.  We thought he’d be fascinated by the sharks, with their massive size and big, pointy teeth, but he seemed uninterested.  He enjoyed some of the other tanks and their colorful fish, especially finding Marlin and Dory, but not the shark tank or its underground tunnel.  Later, when I got home and had uploaded the 800+ pictures onto the computer and was reviewing them, I was shocked by what I suddenly realized. When looking at the whole picture, every time I was pointing at a shark and Brycen was looking away, he was watching something else, another shark, or a school of fish, or once even a giant sea turtle.  He wasn’t uninterested, he was just watching something else, something that mommy and daddy, intent on their own goals, had overlooked. It wasn’t until stepping back to look at the whole picture (pun intended) that I realized how much I was missing because I was focused elsewhere.

This same thing happens with writing, I’ve found.  Many times we get so focused on the overall message we are trying to convey, or the overall plot and story line  that we forget or neglect to step back and look at the whole picture.  There may be a character that is not as prominent as he/she should be because we’ve overlooked them to focus on something else. There may be a plot left unpolished, or a tendril of thought cast into the wind and left to dangle on its own.  As a writer, sometimes I get caught up in the myopic focus of my own agenda, and forget to weave the story to its fullest, making sure every thread is aligned and every character well rounded.  So today, my writing prompt is this, take a look back through a piece of writing you may have laying around.  Find something within it that you may have overlooked because you were focused on something else.  A character could use more color perhaps, or a plot element needs to be expanded slightly, or even shrunk.  Find it, nurture or prune it, and let the whole picture gain in vibrancy.  Enjoy!

Look for updates later this week as we start our “On Writing and Editing” again.  We will be looking into Characterization and Exposition!

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