Monday, February 24, 2014

"How Do I Write Thee? Let Me Count the Ways."

The more we read or study the arts the more we learn about our writing craft.

Using art as a paradigm, writers built word pictures from the inside out, packing the clay of contemplation and metaphor until we have the word composition that represents our insights and inserts them seamlessly into our stories. In writing, color equates to description. Form translates into structure. Writers build scenes, hooking interest and understanding with metaphors and similes to carry readers into emotions that relate to their lives. Writers and artists take audiences out of themselves.

The two artistic disciplines, writing and art are linked. Yet, when the book, painting or sculpture goes from pre-born (in your mind), to WIP (work in progress) to last draft, we still have to check for the following requisites:

Does it have:

• a good title (image) and hook (center of interest) that intrigues but doesn’t confuse the reader about the theme?

• a controlled and clear POV (focus)? When your readers see through someone else’s eyes and walk in their shoes, there is nothing more intimate and revealing. Choosing whose story this is must be your first priority.

• likeable and/or believable characters (colors in keeping with the mood).

• a voice appropriate for the overall theme and era in which you have immersed your reader. Distinctive and recognizable voices within the book that “sound like” him or her orient readers. Beware of anachronisms. They didn’t say “back in the day” back in the day. Try yesteryear, back then, a while back, or long ago…

In art, using anachronisms puts you into the surreal zone. Those pioneers of the paintbrush used the rules against themselves to create a new art form. In writing we can do something similar to that by using a word that seems out of place but perfect when turned into a verb or an adjective.

• clear tone: serious or irreverent, morally ambivalent or slap stick, formal or classical? Your reader should know the genre from page one to the end. Rule of thumb: Where will it appear on the library’s shelves? In which room will be displayed in the museum or show?

• an ending commensurate with the plot? In art a feeling of resolution, be it expected or surprise, follows the story’s (image) genre and tone. Logical, morally correct or your HEA, happily ever after endings have their places. Play fair with the reader. Don’t leave your wood chips, used plaster or dry palate for the audience to make their own assumptions.

Once you’ve mastered the rules in any art form, breaking the rules can release creative ways of presenting your story and transferring it to the heart of the reader. Writers like artists must know how to follow the rules before breaking them. Impressionists and Surrealists splintered the rules of classic art, but first they knew how to draw and use color. Line, form, color and design are part of the original guides. Just as the above rules guide writers.

Visit Julie’s Web site at for Bewildering Stories, my bio
Blog for The Writers Vineyard, every fourth Monday


Richard Hacker said...

Made me think of e.e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Big Mike said...

All good points, JP.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)