Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Why writers can be a little “odd”

by Rick Blechta

A while back a friend asked me how hard it is to write a novel. “Is it sort of like writing a very long composition?”

I thought for a moment, and then replied, “Absolutely not.”

“How so?”

I decided to give him an example. “A person who’s used to writing things like compositions or letters only has to convey information. A writer has to convey many more things like emotion, sense of place, psychological motivation of characters, stuff like that. And you have to do it with clarity as well as style.”

As an example I asked him to compose a sentence about autumn that you might find in a novel.

He came up with, “It was autumn and the colourful leaves were falling down to the ground.”

Admittedly, I’d backed him into a bit of a corner, and I’m sure with more thought he could have come up with a much better sentence given a chance to think about it.

I thought for a moment and then came up with this rewritten version of his thought: “Leaves, tossed by the wind created a blizzard of reds, oranges, and yellows. I hate autumn.”

Now that’s not the brilliant prose ever, but my friend seemed impressed. “How the @#$! did you come up with that?”

I shrugged. “Practise. Writers need to think about every word. Your sentence was filled with dead words. You conveyed your thought clearly and with good grammar, but it was flat. It lacked style. With my sentence I was attempting to make you see and feel something; I wanted to engage your imagination.”

“But what about the ‘I hate autumn’ bit?”

“Aren’t you curious to find out why this person hates autumn?”

“Whoa…” my friend said under his breath.

I think he got it.


Donis Casey said...

Excellent example - and good thinking on your feet, too!

Rick Blechta said...

I taught school for 24 years (even if it was only music), so one learns to think on one's feet.

However, I bet anyone of us could have done something like this -- probably better!

But yeah, it made me realize how differently we writers think and express ourselves.

My grandson commented recently, "Grampa, you talk like a book."

High praise indeed!

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

My mother used to say that even my letters (remember when people wrote letters) were like little books, not like other people's letters. You're so right, we do think differently. And I love your grandsons comment!

Charlotte Hinger said...

I think the processes for writing non-fiction (especially academic) and writing fiction are quite different. Non-fiction is based on intelligent organization, logic, and impeccable research. Fiction is magic.