Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Visual pictures

This is the inspirational. As writers we must use words to create a picture of the people and places we write about. Once again I've been reading John Gardner's On Becoming A Writer. In there he said a number of things. One was about cliches. Another was how we're influenced by television, movies and other people's writing. Another thing was how the flavor of our writing word choices comes from the general area where we were raised. This hit a nerve but as I looked at my own writing, I began to see some truths in this statement.

Let's look at cliches. I love them but I know they're tired and trite. Sometimes they seem to say exactly what you wanted to say. I know when I finish a rough draft I have dozens and I try to remove them. Sometimes single words used as description are cliches. Broad shoulders. Do all heros have broad shoulders. Lately I've been seeing this in a lot of romances. He clasped her small hand. Seems that too many heroines have small hands. One of the tricks to getting rid of cliches is to cast the words into the frame of your particular works. Into the frying pan, could become into the autoclave if your character is in the medical profession. A way to rid yourself of the broad shoulder, small hands sort of thing is to show those in a different way. His shoulders rivaled Atlas's. That sort of thing.

Now the outside influences. When we watch a car chase on the screen and then write one in out manuscript, we often borrow from that. Sometimes it's hard to know if the words you've written have been written before. Some writers I know never read in the genre they write. Others often do. Here I think it depends on a writer's vision. Are the scenes depicted really copies of ones they've read of seen. I don't mean exact copies but rather echoes of what they've seen or read.

Where we live and how it effects our writing. People who were raised in cities tend to use different words and phrasing than those raised in the country. In my own writing I find that being born in a town that was an extension of a big city and where people used mainly verbs and nouns that I often struggle with descriptions. I also trained as a nurse and this had helped choose my vocabulary and being terse. When I returned to writing after a long stint working as a nurse even verbs and nouns came slowly. I'm not one for long flowery passages. Not that there's anything wrong with these. Even when writing poetry, my poems tend to be terse and to the point.

1 comment:

Terri said...

Interesting blog today. It amazes me to hear of people who do not read the genre they write. How can you not? Even putting aside the question of why someone would write something s/he wouldn't want to read (I now realize business interests can influence those decisions)each genre has its particulars conventions that must be followed. You cannot write what is considered to be a true "romance novel" if you don't have an HEA ending, for example.
Recently, I've been revising a story written in one subgenre to make it appropriate for a different subgenre. The story remains the same, though. Only the language used became different. And although I had not read extensively in the other subgenre before, I began to immerse myself in reading, to get the language and conventions right.
As for me, I find my word choices are much more influenced by my years as an avid reader, an English lit. major and a journalist than by where I live or what I do.
In college, during a semester of Hemingway, my writing in creative writing courses reflected Hemingway's spare, sometimes subtle voice. When reading Faulkner, my writing went in the other direction. About the only thing I never unconsciously mimicked was Chaucer.