Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making Faces

Scott D. Parker

Can you imagine watching Van Halen shred a guitar solo without contorting his face to match the music? Itzhak Perlman? Reba McEntire? Even non-performers like conductor Gustavo Dudamel or host Johnny Carson react to the music they’re hearing.

Music is one of those funny things. For the countless hours spent alone in a practice room, there is always the release of performance. If you were to peek in on top performers during one of those practice sessions, you’ll likely see a remarkable thing. Alone, with no one watching, their faces still contort. They are moved by the music and their artistry. Truth be told, once the stage light flare, they put a little extra out there just for the audience, but they still react to the music. The audience does, too, raising their hands at a rock concert or bursting forth with “Bravo” at the end of a symphony. They are moved just like the musician.

As a reader, I react to the book I’m reading all the time. Whether incredulity or joy or anger, I’ll talk back to the inanimate object, fuss at it, and, on occasion, throw it across the room. It’s my way of interacting with the text on the page.

Here’s the real question for you writers: do you, as you are composing your material, make faces? Do you react, when no one’s looking, to the thing you are creating? I do. I’ll smile, get giddy, and start typing faster (thus making more errors). If I’m writing while standing, I all but hop from one foot to the other so glorious is that mother lode of inspiration into which I have tapped.

In my first novel, there’s a series of scenes before the big finale where all the characters, most of whom are in separate locations, start to put the pieces in place. I outlined the book so I knew exactly what was coming down the pike. Still, as I wrote those chapters, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was the first reader AND writer and I was so, so excited. What surprised me later, in my revision stage, was that same thrill and those same butterflies returned at just the same point. It surprises me each time. It’s the joy of creation as well as of reaction.

So, writers, do you “make faces”? If so, how?

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