five finger exercises

Writing was tough last week.  The dialogue was becoming often an excuse to explain things (yuck).

So, today I took my cookbook holder into my writing space, along with three books I like.  I picked a long-ish section of mostly dialogue from each book and typed it.  Word for word.

It’s what I used to do as a girl.  I’d copy down everything I loved into my journal.  Just copy it.  It’s something I looked at as gauche and silly and girlish for a time.  But I had a professor once (the beloved Peter Connelly) who made me see that all the copying and letter writing I’d been doing were really just the “five finger exercises of becoming a writer.” That notion sticks with me.  If I want to learn to write, reading and copying is one of the ways to do it.

But it also helped me get unstuck.  I looked at someone else’s characters, someone else’s plot, someone else’s dialogue. I identified how she solved that problem, how she got around that difficulty.

And I bet you want to know what books I picked. Well, okay.  No laughing–at either my audacity nor at my silliness–

  1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson–the scene where Jack Boughton and the protagonist talk in the church
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince–the scene where Snape sentences Harry to detention after Harry uses SectumSempra on Malfoy…up through Harry & Ginny’s kiss
  3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon–the scene where Juila and Sawyer finally…well…you know
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