Hi again, gang. Craig here, and it’s time for another one of my rambling analogies. A few years ago, my wife and I went camping at Craters of the Moon National Monument. This place consists of about a hundred miles of broken lava fields. If you thought of Gimli’s line about miles of razor sharp rocks, you wouldn’t be far off.
Let’s start with this photo. It shows the lava field running off into the distance. It doesn’t do anything beyond prove that I was there. There is no interest, no focal point, nothing. I can be critical, I was the photographer.
When I wrote about it on my blog, I used the line “Look Small.” I don’t know why it stuck with me, but I knew it meant something at the time. In the case of Craters, it means things are very interesting right under your feet. Here is another photographic example. I have more, but won’t clog up this post to make my point. We’re moving into writing now.
I’ve always loved a good space opera. I like the idea of fleet movements, positioning, strategy, and all the science fiction peripherals. We can watch planets rise and set, deal with high gravity locations, lack of oxygen and more. I don’t feel like I write them well. Something was always missing.
My problem was like the landscape picture up above. Planets and ships don’t make for a story. I failed to look small.
In our stories, we have to capture our readers on a level they can relate to. Those big picture items aren’t as important as the small items. I can imagine a red planet rising across the horizon if you write it, but I can feel a cold cup of coffee on my end table. I can taste it, and understand that so much more.
I’m not telling you to avoid the big picture, you need it too. Today, I want to look small. Keep in mind that just because I write speculative fiction, this concept is not limited to that. That cold coffee works in all the other genres too.
Since I started with science fiction, let’s stay there a while. Instead of looking small, we want to write small. Giant battle cruisers might be cool, but could you relate more to having a fly inside your space helmet? One you can’t do anything about until your mission is over? We’ve all been annoyed by a fly, and we understand that.
Don’t write science fiction? Put that fly in the closet where you’re hiding from the serial killer. It makes it all more real somehow. Your story might be about some heroic adventure, but a minute to dwell on the new girl’s cute overbite will help readers relate to your characters. (I just watched a Kate Beckinsale movie.)
I’m going to caution you that some of this goes too far. We’ve all read articles where they discuss the use of too much description. Too much writing small can become the same distraction. From my standpoint, you use more of this up front, but eventually you have to get to the spaceships. Once we understand the character, who he/she is, and possibly what they want, then we move from the small to the medium.
Give your readers something they can relate to, before you move to the big picture. This doesn’t mean you can’t open with action either. Tearing the earring from your lobe as you run through the spooky forest from the zombie hoard will work too. I’ve never seen a zombie, but I have suffered a bloody wound before. It’s a different kind of hook. I’m going to relate to the character, and may want to find out what happens to her on the next page.
How about it, gang? I never heard the term “write small” before, but I’m going with it. Is there a place for writing small in your own projects? Have I given you something to think about? Ever had an earring ripped out? Give me something here.