Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Eyebrow Thing

Though I still have a few more pages on the original draft of THE HEALER'S HEART, my thoughts are already turning to the next step in this book writing process: "polishing." This is one of my FAVORITE things to do. Printing out a copy, grabbing a cup of tea (or tumbler of iced-tea, depending on the season) and cozying up to re-read the entire manuscript from Chapter One to Chapter Twenty (and Epilogue in this case). Much of the time I'll read it aloud, to get a sense of the flow of both narration and dialogue. Because it's important that characters sound (and act) distinct from one another.

For instance, their individual reactions to stress and irritation: Logan Caldwell might think, "Blast it!", Erin Quinn--our feisty redhead--will likely groan, "Aagh!", heroine Claire Avery will simply lace up her Nikes and hit the nearest running trail . . . while nurse Sarah Burke dives into extra shifts, powered completely by Diet Coke and M&M's. Each different. Consistently different. Claire won't mutter, "aagh" and Logan won't start popping M&M's . . . see what I mean? That's why part of "polishing" is to use the very nifty "Search and Replace" function in my word processing program. I can search a 300 page manuscript for the word "aagh" in mere seconds. Make sure it's only Erin who says that. But it's not the only search I perform. I also search . . . ahem . . . EYEBROWS.

Because body language is important (you can't have your characters stiff as mannequins while they talk) certain amounts of smiling, chuckling, crossing of arms . . . and raising of eyebrows must occur. Problem is, that I seem to have an eyebrow . . . thing. In the course of 20 chapters ( 80-plus scenes of angst, fear, fury, joy) my characters' eyebrows will alternately, "raise," "lift," "arch" "scrunch," and "draw together," in displays of emotion. You probably do that yourselves, with your own brows, right? Thank you. But then, the problem remains that TOO MANY brow gymnastics can get weird. Become, well . . . Groucho Marx. At some point, there is the risk that all dialogue ceases and the book's characters simply stand around mutely wiggling their eyebrows and grimacing . . . don't laugh, I have nightmares about this.

So I search eyebrows and--pardon the pun--pluck them out of my manuscript here and there. It's part of my process. And then I move on to searching my "crutch words," meaning much over-used words like, "just," "actually," "so," "that," "softly," "gently," . . . every writer has his problem words to erase, trust me.

So, actually, over the next few weeks, I'll just be reading The Healer's Heart softly aloud, and gently plucking dozens of scrunching eyebrows and crutch words, so that my new editor won't cringe.

Oops, sorry for that author brow raise--life of their own.


Karen MacInerney said...

I suffer from eyebrow issues as well, Candace... glad to see I'm not alone!

And your grandbaby is adorable -- even if you don't look at all like a grandma. :)


CandaceCalvert said...

Aw shucks, thanks, Karen.

So . . . in your new series, just how furry is a pair of Urban Werewolf eyebrows? Are we talkin' some fairly serious plucking? ;-)

Thanks for stopping by!