I’ve always been fascinated by how people write. Whether they consider character or plot first, whether they see or hear a scene before they can write it.
I’ve always ‘heard’ a scene first. I need to hear the dialogue, hear it clearly before I can begin to visualize the rest of it. So I always start with dialogue. And write the scene using that only.
Sometimes pages and pages of just dialogue without tags or descriptors of any kind.
Starting a piece, I need to get that nailed down before I can ignore my inner editor and move on.
Then I go back and choreograph the scene. That’s my tipping point. It sets the tone of the piece. After that, I can even write scenes out of sequence. No problem.
Unless there is no dialogue anywhere in what I’m writing. Which is why this piece, and others like it that I’ve written, give me such trouble. It’s contrary to my nature as a writer.
What’s your writerly nature? Do you have a tipping point?
Anyway here it is; the next couple of hundred word snippet.
He staggers out of the barracks into the first cold, grey light of dawn, bumping off bodies skeletal and empty-eyed stumbling into strained lines in the center of the yard.
Eyes tearing with cold lock forward. Face still, he stands and stares, watches a dull sun arc along a thin, tight horizon.
Nothing moves across the raw, barren, black terrain beyond the watchtowers; scorched earth, all that’s left of a long ago burn.
Down the line, somewhere to his right, someone’s hacking up the latest plague. Spine straight, head unbowed, his fingers curl into white-knuckled fists at his sides.
The wind shifts; carries the smell of burning from the remains of a wild fire dancing along the serrated slopes just past the dead fields.
The sound of the shot explodes in his head. All-too-familiar rage and fear and shame churn in his gut; tighten his chest.
Wet, grey flakes of snow and ash fall through the raw, cold daylight; filter through the dead trees, the charred, lifeless trunks still standing sightless watch on the other side of the fence line.
Ash and ice, cold and wind stretch and move across the waste like a living thing, breathe harsh and jagged along the grey, serpentine river that snakes past the camp, cleaving the cauterized landscape.
He doesn’t think he’ll survive another winter.
The jolt from his collar slides down his spine; buckles his knees. Hard hands shove; send him staggering across the yard.
He doesn’t look at the body on his way to the pit.