A Left-Brained Writer’s Dilemma

Today, I’d like to talk about using all of our brain in our writing.

I’m experiencing a problem with this.  I’m currently in what I hope are the last stages of working on  my first novel.  I find that my writing, particularly, my longer articles and novels tends to be written from one side of my brain — my left side.   Randy Ingemanson once talked about this tendency in one of his advanced fiction writing ezine , a newsletter I like to read.  After reading his article, it was disconcerting for me to realize that I write more like a typical man than the typical woman writer who has a talent for character development.

This probably shouldn’t surprise me. I have an engineering degree, and think that Star Wars films are some of the greatest films ever made.  Lucas’  films aren’t exactly known for their deep characterization.  And while I love many character driven books,  my favorite books tend to be adventure stories of one sort of another.  I was sooooo disappointed last week when my oldest son told me he didn’t like Call of the Wild by Jack London.  I loved that book when I was his age!

After several drafts of my fantasy novel, I have come to accept the truth — my book is filled with action and lots of plot twists and a decent amount of dialogue, but the descriptive, lyrical pieces in my book are very limited if not non-existent.   That’s a  big problem because I want the story to be a lyrical story.  A good friend of mine said my book currently reads like a reporter wrote it, and I know she’s right. 

Fortunately, she gave me some good advice which might help other left brained writers:

  1. Let your first focus be to expand the descriptions of the character you want people to care about the most, don’t worry about making the whole book a lyrical book.
  2. Define the top ten critical scenes of the book and make sure they are well-developed in terms of description and character turns.

I also thought of a few ideas of my own to tap into the powers of my right brain:

  • Understand the metaphors in the book — well, make sure there are is at least one.
  • Consider adding a simile or two.
  • Make sure there are at least ten beautifully written lyrical sentences in the book.
  • Describe the world that the book creates throughout the book, not just in the first chapter.

This process of improving my novel is an interesting one, because it brings up several questions:

  • Do most of us repress some side of our whole authentic voice in our writing and speaking?  Or am I unique?
  • Can writing stories with someone to give us feedback on how we naturally write, be a way of opening up the use of our whole brain?
  • Is there a feminine and masculine way of writing?

Ursula Le Guin is a good example of a writer who combines action/adventure with solid character development.  The best writers seem to have the gift or developed skill to do this.  For me, this will have to be a developed skill.

What’s your experience? Have any of you been through the novel-writing process and had to compensate for a bias of writing from only one side of your brain? 


4 thoughts on “A Left-Brained Writer’s Dilemma

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