Thursday, June 21, 2012

Writing In 3-D

Since visitors to my back fence have suggested adding a variety of topics to my weekly blog . . . A little fun, a little writing information . . . you know, something to mix it up. So today my post comes under the heading of “writing stuff.” Hey, some time I have to be serious.

The other day I was talking with a writer friend and, as usual, our conversation meandered from current events, movies and the weather to our favorite topic, writing, and our different methods of setting a scene and giving the reader a sense of place. 

Have you ever heard the terms “cardboard characters” or “talking heads”? Ever wondered what they meant or how to fix the problem? I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on writing, folks, but over the years, I’ve learned what works for me, and isn’t that what writers all must do to produce their best work?
To me, “cardboard characters” brings to mind the paper dolls I played with soooo many years ago before Barbie and Ken arrived in stores. Paper dolls cut from pages printed with people, clothes with tabs to attach to the dolls, oh there was even paper furniture you could fold and bend – the make-believe world was full of possibilities if you used your imagination. So I learned to bring life to these flat, one-dimensional people by adding depth to their story like a movie adds dimension to a flat screen.

In later years, as I began to put the stories in my head on paper, I also began to learn from other, more experienced writers that flat characters in a book also need to appear fully developed in 3-D to the reader. And a sense of place must also bring the same dimension to the page. If your reader has no connection to the scene – the where and what of the action and the people in the scene, the writing is flat and uninteresting. A simple page of paper dolls that have no life.

Cut out the paper dolls of your story and give them dimension. Round them out with deep POV and a sense of place. Put them in a fully developed scene so the reader feels immersed in the action. A balance between narrative, description and dialogue should be a writer’s goal.

The first time I saw a movie in 3-D, I actually believed the ocean waves swept over me. I could hear the whoosh as white caps rushed toward me on the screen. I felt wet! I want to put that same sensation in my writing using all the senses to bring the scene and my characters to life. 3-D works for me. How do you do it? What are your favorite books that totally immerse you in the story?

See y’all back here next week. In the meantime, stay cool and enjoy the summer.



  1. Great explanation, Loralee. I'm afraid your 3-D comparison doesn't work for me. I understand the concept but I can't see movies in 3-D. Wish I could, but my eyes don't work that way. Weird, huh? Avatar at the show looks the same as the DVD on my TV. I do understand what you're talking about with developing characters, though. Nice job.

  2. Diane, it's not my eyes so much, just my imagination. :) Every writer has to use the method that works best for them. Some times it takes a while to find it. Thanks for stopping by.