I finished the first draft of my next Lexy Cooper mystery and was surprised by two things. One: I didn’t cry or freak out like when I finished the first one. Two: I was able to step away from it for two whole weeks. I didn’t touch it at all. I made notes for the third book, did some research and talked to my favorite artist Brett Parson about what we’ll do for the cover.
So having had a break, it is time to get back to work. I mentioned in an earlier post that I tend to write mainly action and dialog. Early drafts of my manuscripts could be mistaken for screenplays. Ergo, there is a dearth of description and detail that must now be remedied.
I think there are two reasons I write the way I do: The first is that I don’t like long descriptive passages as a reader. I will sometimes skim or even skip over that sort of detail. I don’t need to know the layout of the house unless it’s important to the plot. Don’t describe for me the location of a hall closet unless someone’s going to hide in it, pop out of it with an axe, or discover the missing will within it.
The second reason is that I can see the characters and locations in my head. I’m watching a movie and typing as fast as I can to capture what I see. If there’s a dude with a gun, I don’t think to stop and describe the weather or the terrain or even the make and model of the weapon. It doesn’t seem important at the time. BUT, I realize that readers do not have access to the movie playing in my head, so I must fill in the details. It’s not my favorite part of writing, so I have termed it “fluffing.”
Now, I’m never going to write three paragraphs describing the smell, texture, and spiritual weight of an orange unless it’s filled with poison and is a major plot device. I’m not that kind of writer. For me, the fluffing is just a little bit of tweaking to add a dash more flavor to the story. Here are two examples from Chapter 10 of Schooled.
In this scene, Lexy is having dinner with Detective Malick at Angelo’s and discussing the investigation into the murder of Xenon PR manager Callie Caldwell.
Here I added three sentences to the end of the scene. It doesn’t move the plot any further along, but it gives some clues as to Mike and Lexy’s relationship, and humanizes the usually hardass cop. He’s a fan of the Rat Pack, enjoys veal, and knows all the words to “Summer Wind.” Better, yes?
In this scene later in chapter ten, Lexy gets a late-night phone call from her boyfriend Nate after he stands her up for a rendezvous in Los Angeles. At this point, I establish that Detective Malick has given her a gun and that she treats it carelessly.
Again, I only added a few sentences to the end of the scene. But those additional words change the information that the reader receives. Panties kicked under the bed and a reference to the Rabbit are a further testament to Lexy’s attitude towards sex–which is an important part of the character. She reads detective novels (in chapter one we see that she’s watching a Law & Order re-run). Lexy is interested in figuring stuff out. No mention of the gun in this fluffed scene. Near the end of the novel the reader will discover what else Lexy saw under her bed with the books, panties and sex toys.
Better with fluff? I think so.