I cleared away the used Roy’s Coffee House paper cups I had collected over the week, then painstakingly sorted through multiple yellow pads filled with “To Do” lists related to my new job program managing for a startup telecommunications company. By and by I revealed my desk, which had become messy over the last few days. Ahhh. That felt nice. I had spent the week collecting things on my desk haphazardly, knowing I would need them at some point. Now, just the right things were left: one yellow pad with an updated action items list, one pen, a water bottle, and a neat stack of purchase orders.
Unwittingly, a thought popped into my head that good writing was like this too: carefully choreographed scenes revealing essential ingredients needed to create a setting and push a story forward.
Then I thought about the semantics we use to describe this process and noted therein was the problem. Instead of thinking from the perspective of “building a scene,” we might become better writers if we imagine we are unveiling a scene to our reader.
There you are, facing a blank page to which you must add words. Stop. Rearrange your thinking. See the scene in your mind’s eye. Now imagine, as you write, that each word or phrase you put on the page is designed to reveal more of that scene to your reader, slowly disclosing bits and pieces of critical content. Some words will show teasers of a physical description (not too much at once), others will lay bare the thoughts and feelings motivating a character.
Ultimately, we writers are not scene builders at all, but rather striptease artists, using our words to reveal the very essence—the naked truth—of what we want our readers to take away, and, perhaps in the process, baring a bit of ourselves as well.