Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writing Is Not Architecture

via pinterest
In editing a paper yesterday, I began to think about writing, and how terms like "parallel construction" et al make writing into architecture - and what that means. In academic writing, one building-block at a time we stack up our stories until we have a firm cement construction that is the Argumentative Essay.

Well. That's all well and good if you want to write a tight argument and convince someone of the validity of your point on some issue, but that's not how we write books.

I see it this way: argumentative writing is your workout routine. It's healthy, and very good at all around tightening, toning and perfecting you(r writing skills). When it comes to writing literature, however, we get to freestyle. And dance is not always symmetrical - that's the beauty of it. Some lines (or in this case, sentences) will be beautiful, elongated, wordy, they'll fill your soul with all the richness and beauty of expression that is creative writing. But then there are these guys. The short, steady one. In dance, these are the static, heavy movements, and the contrast between the two is what makes a piece so captivating and keeps your reader reading, or your audience watching. Without each other, both sentences become monotonous and dull. No amount of profuse vocabulary (highfalutin-mumbo-jumbo, as Gilbert would have it) will make that sentence new, unless you break it up with something easier to chew on. No amount of defeatist drama in those 4-5 word sentences will grab your reader any faster if you don't incorporate some longer sentences and let your writing flow for once.

See the thing about architecture is it assumes similarity. For every flowery, Grecian pillar, (or sentence) you need three others for the remaining, respective corners of the structure. But with creative writing, we get the freedom to stack a tall, flowering pillar next to a short, squat one, next to a sharp square one and so on. The resulting myriad of sentence-lengths is what creates rhythmic, living writing, with that sort of je ne sais quoi that perhaps now vous sais quoi precisement. 

So please, for the sake of all of us reading, vary your sentence length. Nobody. Wants. To. Read. Like. This.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being Brave (about what you write)

via Pinterest
I've had a thought that I'd like to share - and I'd love if you continued the discussion with me.

I've read countless posts on the importance of being brave with your writing. Rah rah! they cheer. You're going to write this novel, slay those characters, and burn the hearts of your readers on a post.

Have you read them too? There seems to be a glorification in the world of literature these days of punchy, bloody, gutsy stories. I don't mind it, to be honest. If there's one thing I despise, it's dishonesty; forced gentleness. What I don't like is blood for the sake of blood; vulgarity for the sake of 'honesty'.

There is a time for bloodshed, possibly in every story. There will definitely be places for tears and emotions, if your book is any good. But when your writing becomes entirely raw, emotional struggles, or hardcore battle scenes? That's too much to work through. Reader's shouldn't be made to suffer that much. Yes, in buying your book they are choosing to live in your world for the duration of the plot. Yes, you as the author have the freedom to write the book the way you feel it must be written. But at the end of the day, people will not read a book that holds a sword under their chin from page 1 to page 100. That's just not fair.

So what exactly is being brave in writing, if you can't terrorize your readers and give them reason to believe there's no escape (until the last second).

Being brave in your writing means holding your own.
That means that whatever the world says about life is not necessarily what you say. It means while the rest of the world writes cheap fiction, while your friends write in styles that you admire but could never master, you hold to your own style. It means using gentleness and punchiness in their turns, for specific purposes, and not simply to catch readers with your saber-tip title or to look like you know what you're doing. Violence might be a part of that. But you must not be afraid you use weakness, too. All bloodshed and murder and gore only deplete the sanctity of life. Even if your story requires death, even if it requires a lot of it, give your readers (and yourself) a breather. A small peaceful moment. One person's life that isn't destroyed. Two characters that eventually do find love. A happy ending for a minor character at least. It might not be what everyone else is doing, but your story will be the better for it.

Brave doesn't mean blood. Brave means you don't back down.
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