Thursday, May 11, 2017

How Vivid Is Your Writing? Find Out For Yourself


All my time is taken up by the The Iron Dragon's Mother these days. So here's some more useful advice for gonnabe writers:

Granted, there are times when for legitimate reasons you might want your writing to be dull and bland. But as a rule, vivid is better than not. And concrete things are more vivid than abstractions. Here's how to see how vivid (or not) your writing is.

You understand this is just a fast and sloppy test, right? Good.

Take a page from a story you're working on. (Shown above: a page from "The Changeling's Tale," by yours truly.) Now take a colored market -- I chose yellow -- and highlight all the nouns that refer to things you can actually see or touch or taste or hear or smell. Fish. Air. Aunt Kate. Feather. Bravos.

Next, take a different color marker -- red, here -- and highlight all the adjectives indicating things that can be physically sensed.

Finally, take a third marker -- you can guess which color I used -- and highlight all the verbs that indicate actions that can be seen. Stirred. Swung. Turned. But not sensed or felt or realized.

Participles, articles, pronouns, and the like are left gray. A sentence like "Without meaning to, I had caused a sensation," though necessary here, is entirely colorless.

When you are done, look at the results. If the page looks bright and lively, chances are your prose is too. If if looks gray, then your prose is probably colorless and abstract.

And that's all.

Now, back to work, both of us!

Above: Yes, I'm sure I've made mistakes in the exemplar page above. But it was only the work of a minute. You, I'm sure, will put a great deal more care into your page.


1 comment:

Olly said...

I tried this exercise in a poetry class today with Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" and Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" - it made an excellent teaching & analysis tool, too! I wanted to thank you for sharing it.