Monday, June 17, 2013

The Show Must Go On

By Laurie Epps

As writers, we have to show the world inside our heads, but conveying that in written form can be tricky. They should feel for our characters if we are writing fiction, or empathize with our cause if writing for non-fiction. 

Most of all, we don't want to have our reader sitting there, and feeling nothing what so ever.

But how do we achieve that? Today, Natalie Goldberg talks about techniques that will enhance a response from our reader, good or bad. So get out your copy of Writing Down the Bones, and buckle up. Let's talk about writing.

Don't Tell, but Show
pp. 75-76

How often do we hear this as writers? But what does it mean when we say that?

Here's the low-down: what this means is that instead of saying that you are angry, explain why you are angry so that your readers can be angry too.

Sometimes we write a story we just love, but no one else does. We don't get it. We felt betrayed by our own vocation. But often we just need to get more intimate with our own writing. We need to zoom in, and then turn around mentally. What do we see? Make sure you write these impressions down. Now that's writing.

For practice, close your eyes, and imagine a small vignette of a memory. How does it look and feel? What are the sights and sounds you sense in your surroundings? Be specific. Have you ever done this? What was the result?

Be Specific
pp. 77-78

Instead of saying "Most Parisians have a flowerpot in their windows of their apartment dwelling," you should say, "Most Parisians have a geranium in their window or on their terrace of their apartment." 

By this slight change we have a more structured, more visual scene in our memory.  So in creating a scene, don't be afraid to ask questions, and to research those subtle elements in the background.

Big Concentration
pp. 79-80

When we write with complete concentration, but it can be made even better if we don't forget the outside world. The right descriptive metaphor at a timely moment can be just what our writing needs in that moment.

The Ordinary and the Extraordinary 
pp. 81-83

This essay addresses what is wrong with my Grand Canyon essay. In an attempt to offset an ordinary world to force it to be extraordinary. But good writing is often an exploitation and celebration of ordinary events.The good writer brings us to that place with them.  As readers, we are experiencing the moment along with the writer. In this way it is a very communicative gesture. We we write we must remember that the ordinary and extraordinary bear equal weight.

On a personal note, I would say that the ordinary moments we illuminate are what makes us relatable as writers. The way the latte tastes on your tongue, the annoying fly buzzing around when you're taking a test. It gives our writing credibility and helps draws in our readers to our stories.

Have you ever forgotten those little moments that would make your writing more descriptive? When you added them in after the fact, what were the results? Please share them with us below in the comments section.

Come back next week and we'll talk about pages 84-92. Join the conversation.

Laurie Epps is a non-fiction author, essayist, editor, and poet living in Anderson, South Carolina. A seeker of beauty, her is dream is to travel the world one day and tell the many stories of those she meets. To read more of Laurie's stories come back here for her column about Poetry on Thursdays, or follow her Tuesday column dedicated to writing on:

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