It’s the last day of November. I have less than 12 hours to go on the NaNoWriMo challenge. In a last desperate bid to hit 50,000 words, I’m going to keep on writing all day, with just this little break to keep the blog alive. I’m still under 45,000, so it’s a stretch. Speaking of stretch, Thanksgiving was way too much eating and not nearly enough writing.

Once again, I could take a lesson from Smokey. Look at him. He’s just lying there, I’m standing right above him with the camera, and he doesn’t even budge. In fact, after I took the picture, he calmly turned his head away and closed his eyes again. I need some of that focus!

I find the Internet, in particular, horribly distracting. There is so much interesting content out there that I often feel as if I’m barely keeping my head above water. Occasionally, I come across something that totally blows my mind. That happened this week with an article in Slate on the use of mice and rats in medical research. It’s a very long article, and I’m still digesting it. I hope to write about it soon here on Gydle, once I’m out of my November novel-blasting mode.

Today, from a link on one of my favorite sites, Snarkmarket – it’s likeable just for the name – I found another gem, by Jack Cheng. The idea of keyframing, as applied to writing.

Keyframing is a term used in animation; key frames are the starting and ending points of a smooth animation transition. In a cognitive sense, keyframing is what you do when you transition from one clear thing to another clear thing. Take the example given on the post – you see a picture of a plane in the distance. Then you see a picture of the plane overhead. Your brain fills in the missing trajectory, imagining the plane’s flight from frame A to frame B.

Comics, Cheng points out, are keyframes, and they’re fun to read because our brains get to fill in the blanks between the frames. He argues that our lives are like key frames. We have high moments, separated in time. When you go back and think about things, you see your life somewhat like a comic book. All the transitions are smoothed out.

Writing is like that, too. There are the million-dollar sentences that hold the thing together. Those are the frames. And then there’s the rest. Beware, he writes, of keyframe bias:

A bias develops from the availability of these frames, one that rears its head not when we read, but when we try to write.

Beginning writers, especially those who’ve done a lot of reading, have a tendency to overwrite. I do it all the time. There’s this urge to cram in clever metaphors and flowery prose and think that every sentence needs to be quotable or rebloggable, something worthy of scrawling in dry-erase marker on a dorm room door.

What we fail to realize is there are sentences in our favorite books, even in the Great American Novel, that are completely unremarkable.

That last sentence is a great key frame. As I look back over my writing, I don’t see a whole lot of quotable frames. How’s this? (finally, you think, something from her novel!)

“Did he explain how he was going to use this protein? What it was good for?” she asked.

“Not really. But he did say that if this worked there would be a bunch more like it. That’s cool. We like new challenges, particularly if they’re important for advancing science.” Ned plugged one nostril with a finger, leaned his head away from Kate and blew snot from his free nostril off to the side of the road. “Sorry. Plumbing overload.”

“That is so gross, Ned.” Kate rolled her eyes.

On that note, let’s move to safer ground – photos. Here’s a picture from my Thanksgiving cook-fest. After I cut into this squash, I noticed it was bleeding. Poor thing. It gave its life up for a good cause, though – two delicious pumpkin pies.

2 thoughts on “Keyframing

    • And it’s Thanksgiving and the cyberworld for the win!
      I maxed out at 45,137
      I’m already honing my strategy for next year.
      Does this count as a poem?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *