Mediating.

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Sometimes we mediate our scenes by explaining what they mean for our characters, instead of letting the details do the work on their own.

Mediating is similar to abstraction — it’s another way writers use language to try to control how a story will be received and understood, instead of letting readers come to their own conclusions.

In other words, when you mediate a scene for your reader, you interrupt their own experience by telling them what you want them to feel.

Resist this impulse. You don’t want to explain to your reader what they’re supposed to absorb from a scene. You want them to absorb it all themselves. You want them to feel like they’re right there.

You want them to feel the meaning of the scene because the way you’ve written the scene is so direct, they can’t help but be moved.

To do that, try to keep your scenes detailed and unmediated. Trust the power of concrete, sensory images to transmit meaning for you.

An example of what mediating could look like:

Amanda whispers in Jaye’s ear. It’s obvious that Jaye doesn’t like what she hears.

How do we know that it’s obvious? We don’t get to see the clues that tell us that Jaye is upset. What did her response look and sound like? Did she stand up? Did she say something back to Amanda? Did she burst into tears?

Write those clues instead.

In your revision, look for where you might be mediating: explaining what things in your scenes are supposed to mean for the story and the characters.

I love the work of revising my mediated scenes, because it’s so doable! It’s like I just dropped a placeholder into the scene to mark where I get to drop into my imagination later. Unlike first drafts, where anything can happen, revising mediated scenes is manageable, so there’s no overwhelm.

To revise the above example, cut the second line. Now close your eyes and imagine Amanda leaning over and whispering in Jaye’s ear. Where are they sitting? What does Jaye’s hair look like? Now imagine Jaye’s response to the whispered secret. Look for clues in posture, tone of voice, movement. What clues do you see in the environment?

Show me Jaye’s response through scene. Whatever you describe should reveal clues about Jaye’s reaction, so you don’t have to explain it.

Get us to think to ourselves as we read: Well, obviously Jaye didn’t like to hear that.

Trust that your writing transmits what you feel, and trust that your reader is smart enough to pick up the clues and make meaning out of them herself.

And remember, revision can be fun.

Love,


Photo credit: Sai De Silva on Unsplash


Abstraction.
Filtering.

6 comments

Sarah Selecky

Thanks, Kathy! Yes and yes - it takes so much of the pressure off a first draft. And it makes revision so much easier, just knowing this little craft trick. <3
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Sarah Selecky

Welcome back, Elizabeth! Have fun getting some of those stories in writing. xo S
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Elizabeth Westra

I'm home from a two week vacation with only a small computer that didn't work half the time. I'm so glad to be home, even though the time away was fun and a needed recreation. I'm happy to be at a good computer again. Now I'm back and getting excited again about writing. Maybe I can use some of the wacky things that happened to us in stories. I'll have to think about it further.
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Karen Mace

I'm about to start work on my first draft. I know I have LOTS of work to do so this is timely and will be a great help. Thanks Sarah :).
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Sarah Selecky

Thank you, Karen - and have fun with this next phase of writing and revising!
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Kathy Martens

Yes! A beautiful and clear explanation of this process. It takes the pressure off the first draft and grants such welcome permission to just write the damn first draft an let it be bad (knowing that revision is coming and it will be FUN!). You a Ninja at getting to the bones, Sarah. You are my favorite master. ?
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