Guest Post: Naked Writing

Stop your dirty little minds, this post is not what you think its about.  And put your clothes back on! This is not about sitting at the computer writing while naked.  No, its much more valuable, it is about no-frills writing can deliver action and excitement better than its ruffly, prissy sister.  It's good stuff.

And, as excited as I am about sharing this post from my wonderful friend, fellow author J.D. Frost, I'm even more thrilled to announce the august news that accompanies this guest post: J.D.'s mystery novel, Dollface, was just published!  You should take one second and go buy it right now.  Seriously. Because I just finished it and the novel is a great read. DollfaceCover

Okay, okay, on to the guest post, but read more about J.D. at the end.

Naked Writing

by J.D. Frost

In the opening of The Client, John Grisham uses sentences with no frills, just action and excitement. I call this non-decorative method naked writing. Let’s examine the first 40 pages of this great thriller. Follow along.

It begins with a description of the protagonist and his brother. Mark is 11. His brother is 8. That’s it. That’s the description. Does Mark have eyes as pale blue as the September sky or the deep rich hue of sapphires? We don’t know. Is he cute … big? No clue. On page 24–twenty-four!–we discover the color of Mark’s hair with the following passage from Ricky’s viewpoint: “But he knew his brother was alive because he had darted behind trees for fifty feet until he caught a glimpse of the blond head sitting low and moving about in the huge car.” This sentence is a far cry from “He had blond hair.” Look at the movement. Nothing static. We have identified with Mark and Ricky. Things are happening. We don’t have time for looking in the mirror.

Is it hot? Cold? Is the book set in spring or fall? Don’t know. Number One in Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing is “Never open a book with the weather.” On page 7, the sun hid behind a cloud just before a sinister turn in the action. A little cliche but hardly noticeable. The sky darkens again on page 24. Why doesn’t he tell us that it is … summer? Would it add anything? The cloud over the sun hints at a dark turn. The tension increases again when a cloud blocks the sun on 24. That’s all the weather we get. This is Mark’s story. A lot is going on! He’s not gazing around at the sky. Maybe you could make a case for the weather if Mark were 74.

And another thing: Where are we? Are we in New York? Los Angeles? Our first clue comes on page 15 with this absolutely great passage: “I’ve never shot this thing, you know,” he said almost in a whisper. “Just bought it an hour ago at a pawnshop in Memphis. Do you think it’ll work?” Brilliant.

So he gives us no description of Mark or Ricky. But he’s inconsistent! On page 28, he describes the bad guy–in detail. “The shoes were shark and the vanilla silks ran all the way to the knee caps … The dark green suit had a shine to it and appeared at first glance to be lizard … The hair was black and full, colored to hide a bit of gray, slicked down, laden with gel, pulled back fiercely and gathered into a perfect little ponytail that arched downward and touched precisely at the top of the dark green polyester jacket.” I love this. This is a bad dude! But why does Mr. Grisham give us more of this guy’s appearance than the main character? Maybe because this is Mark’s p.o.v. He is not in this scene, but this is his world and he is examining this man who has stepped into it. Luckily, we get to tag along.

I don’t propose we write without adjectives. Grisham’s sentences are full of movement and action, and the description we need comes from the movement of the characters through the scene. After I read this opening, I couldn’t help but continue. I hope this has been helpful. I have learned a bit. I thank John Grisham for giving us this great legal thriller. And may you write the stories in your head, my friends, exactly as they play in your mind. J.D.

Jdfrost 1 (1)J.D. Frost is the author of DOLLFACE. Two of his short stories have been published, one in NUVEIN magazine and another in CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON! 2009. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He lives near Huntsville, Alabama, where he is at work on the 2nd Moses Palmer mystery.

What do you think of J.D.'s naked writing theory?  Do you prefer stripped-down scenes or more flowery ones?

Photos courtesy of the author.  

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13 Comments on "Guest Post: Naked Writing"

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J.D.
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J.D.
08/12/2014 04:34

Charlotte, thank you for having me as a guest. I always enjoy your posts. I’m honored to be here.

D young
Guest
08/12/2014 07:43

I’m just catching up after a busy weekend settling my daughter in college and wow! This is a great post! Thanks for sharing your insight and information to the book with us JD! So exciting for you.
Since I am now a partial empty nester, I plan to get my writing house in order!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
08/12/2014 09:44

Thanks, D. That means a lot. I hope your daughter enjoys college. And yes, it’s a great time for you to write.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
08/12/2014 15:02

Okay, D, we're going to hold you to that vow to get your writing house in order!  Hooray for getting a daughter to college.  And yes, this is a great post, isn't it?  I highly recommend J.D.'s book, too.

D young
Guest
08/13/2014 05:56
Uh-oh! This comment nagged on me before I even read it! The day after we returned home from traveling to NE I did a mass clean out of areas of my house. (I am assuming this is the reverse of nesting when you’re about to go into labor rather than the purge after sending them away. Far far away… 🙂 but I digress…. Guess what I found? My art history writing instructional books my art history professor gave me when I attempted transferring from my community college to the local university. I was unable to get into the art program… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
08/13/2014 06:28

You gave yourself a great piece of advice–write something, anything, every day.    Remember that you'll know more about what you are writing when you get to the end of it, so finishing things is important, too.  Keep a list of ideas somewhere, even if its in your head only!  And I like to have multiple projects going (Like a novel and a short story or two) so that if I get stalled on one, I can move to a different one.  Good luck!  

D young
Guest
08/13/2014 06:48

Lists! You’re talking to the queen of lists!!

Thank you!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
08/13/2014 09:58
I’ve heard beautifully composed advice from famous authors only to find out later that it came from someone else. Writers are mostly eager to share and I think we all become stronger when we talk. I write mysteries. There are no personal experiences in my book. The characters are sometimes a partial version of someone I know. Some of my desires, my feelings, my imaginings are there, but no recognizable part of me. Yet sometimes while I write, I am flooded with thoughts of very important events in my life. It is a strange way to do business. One part… Read more »
J.D.
Guest
J.D.
08/13/2014 10:00

“hear it.”

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
08/13/2014 10:22

Charlotte underscored some great advice: Write something . . . anything. Write your list. Expand them a little. Give each item a little bio.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
08/13/2014 19:19

Oh J.D. I just love you so much (don't tell your wife). This is a wonderful response. Thank you.

Sent from my iPhone

D young
Guest
08/14/2014 05:32

Great advice. Thank you. Honestly, I DO read what I’d hope to write someday. The same genre so to speak. Mystery writing would break me. Guess what? I don’t read mysteries. But I might read yours:)

D young
Guest
08/18/2014 05:46

Each item a little bio….love this

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