Strange Findings

strange findings matthew j morrisonToday’s post is by Matthew J Morrison.

 

One of the strangest things, to my mind, that I’ve learned from writing is the idea of efficiency of language—that is getting one’s message across, not with the fewest words, but with the most precise words.

As Strunk and White put it, in Elements of Style, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences…”

I loved language when I was young.

I cut my teeth on a diet of flowery 19th-century prose from speculative fiction greats such as Edgar Allan Poe, H G Wells and Jules Verne—all of whom were very much enamoured with the English language.

From there, I graduated to multiple-volumed epics of Fantasy and Science Fiction—upward of one million words a hit—where lengthy description and lyrical exposition are common tropes.

While at school, I was instructed in the elements of the sentence and was encouraged to employ as many as possible whenever I set pen to paper.

And so, taking my lead then from these authors and teachers, whenever I wrote I did so with a fanfare of grandiloquence. I wanted to articulate to the world that I was just as clever as those I had read and those from whom I’d learned.

“Be generous with the truth and economical with how you tell it,” writes Mark Tredinnick in his The Little Red Writing Book.

It took many years, and much broadening of my reading horizons, to realise that the best writing—the writing that doesn’t read like writing—is that which is concise and accurate.

Verbs propel sentences. Nouns give them targets.

The more precision a writer can find in either of these elements, the more efficient the writing.

An item that is snatched has so much more energy than an item that is merely grabbed or picked up quickly.

Likewise a cleaver paints a much more vivid picture than a broad-bladed knife or a hatchet knife.

My writing career is still very much in its infancy. So, when I’m drafting, I still resort to profuse descriptions, indulging in copious portions or adjectives and adverbs.

But one of the key things I look for now in later edits is to pare these back, when I can, to a more fitting noun or verb.

It doesn’t always work—sometimes the image is poorer for its lack of descriptor. But when I do get it right, the reading feels so much more tangible, so much more alive.

Good writing should be about accurate communication and not flaunting one’s wordsmithery.

 

I don’t do blog and I don’t have website. But I do write.

You can find me mostly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/acutemattiosis

And occasionally on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/acutemattiosis

Strange things – Learning from writing

strange learnings

Today’s post is by Melissa at The Lone Creature.

The strangest thing I have learnt from writing is that for all my schooling and researching about ‘how to write’ it comes down to actually doing the writing. The more I do, the more I learn. I believe everyone ‘can’ write, and I believe everyone should write, something, somewhere. I believe those who make good fiction writers are the ones who are able to make ‘that’ special connection with readers. That special connection is where the reader is able to suspend disbelief and not just enter, but engage, with the writer’s imaginary world. I have learnt that to achieve such connections it takes crafting and love. There is an art to giving the reader enough information to see what you see, but not so much you crowd their own imagination.

Therefore, the strangest thing I do is to balance my descriptions of scenes and settings with leaving something to the reader’s own imaginations using the idea of schemas (models) and gestalt (making sense of partial images to form a whole image). For schema, if I say ‘classroom’ you immediately have your own idea of what that looks like. So, should I spend time describing every last detail if the setting isn’t that crucial, or is it more important to take time on the plot, character development, and other? For gestalt, I might say ‘blue skies, sparkling calm ocean, and rocky edges’ you form a whole out of those parts. It’s a schema if I say ‘rugged coast line’.

Put them together: Sam walked down the rugged coast line and then stood looking out to the sparkling calm ocean and blue skies. That isn’t a lot of detail but depending on your style of writing, or genre, it should be enough if you want to focus on your character in that setting and scene. And, your reader can choose to visualize according to what they like. For example, Sam could walk in the sand, or on rocks, on a grassy section, or even in the water. Now, here’s the thing – what sex is Sam, or rather, what sex did you as the reader assign? In a full story ‘Sam’ would normally be male or female, but you can also choose to leave that detail for the reader to work out.

Finally, the strangest thing I practice are drabbles – these were first mentioned in Monty Python’s, 1971, ‘Big Red Book’. Drabbles are 100 word stories usually with a beginning, middle, and end. I use drabbles for discipline, to spark my imagination, to help with a setting/scene, to try a different genre or apply a specific skill, as a challenge, and finally, for fun.

 

I have a website where I like to play – www.lonecreature.com.au

The name came from the fact I was essentially a ‘lone creature’, and then I found twitter https://twitter.com/LoneCreatureTM and tweet stuff that comes to mind.

Author Biography: https://about.me/mypompeii

I hope you enjoyed my first guest’s thoughts on the strange things you can learn from writing. What have you learnt from your writing practice and was it wonderful or strange, or maybe both?