The solution to manuscript problems isn't always easy to see. That's why I turn to other authors.
For instance, my screenwriter--who has a wonderful eye for the cinematic--recommended I boost the character visuals: She couldn't always see the characters in each scene. We writers internalize our characters easily, so we sometimes forget that readers outside our heads can't do this.
Clues are needed--a quirk, a way of moving, a physical characteristic. Not too much, but enough to be able to set the person onstage in front of us.
This is especially important, my friend said, in the opening pages.
I agree--but I also hate when the opening scene is loaded with too much description. It slows things way down.
First I began with a list of visual and character traits I could use for each of the seven or eight main players. Of these, I chose the three most interesting characteristics for each person.
Then I went to some of my favorite books to see how these authors presented their characters in opening chapters. How did we get to know someone, how they looked or moved?
It was a fascinating study.
I am reading a variety of books at the moment, all by authors very different in style. One is Italian Shoes, a novel by Swedish writer Henning Markell. Studying his first five pages, I saw that he mostly let us visualize the first-person narrator through his profession (a physician), the postman who visits his island, and his cramped living quarters.
Your writing exercise this week is to take a writing problem in your own manuscript and find three authors who have already solved it. What can they teach you?