Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creative Writing: Two Important Rules

TWO IMPORTANT RULES IN CREATIVE WRITING (from Fundamentals of Creative Writing, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard)
RULE #1: SHOW DON’T TELL – One of the things you’ll hear a lot in the literary community is the dictum “Show, Don’t Tell.” Don’t tell me about how sad or happy your life is, SHOW me. Don’t tell me what a terrible person so-and-so is, show me how this person looks, how he/she walks, behaves; how others react to this person, so I make that conclusion. Don’t say the woman is beautiful, show me her hair, her eyes, her teeth, the curve of her ankle perhaps, whatever it is that makes her beautiful. 

In creative writing, you are dealing with images, and you are using words to create these images. It’s a good thing then to train yourself to think in images – and to use words to allow your readers to see those images. Learn to write in a sensual way, that is to let your readers see, hear, feel, smell, taste.  Bring your readers into the scene you are creating. It is fascinating. You the writer “see” these images in your head; you use words to describe these images; and somehow, like magic, your readers can decode those images and also see them in his/her head! But obviously the images that the writers want to get down on paper are significant to the writer. It is this that will give the writing that “energy” that makes the writing compelling. It makes the work “sparkle.”

RULE #2: BE SPECIFIC – This rule is connected with the first rule. It follows that being specific will help your readers “see” your images better. Learn to be concrete and specific. Name flowers, plants, colors, animals. For instance, instead of saying there were bright flowers near the house, how about saying, an ancient bougainvillea vine dripping with carmine-colored flowers stood by the side of the house.

1.      Think of an item that you keep that other people consider junk.  Write about that item, making sure you follow the above rules of Show Don’t Tell and Be Specific.
2.      Pick a picture of a scene that you like.  Imagine yourself in that scene. Now write as if you were actually in that scene.  Write not only about your feelings but about specifics in that scene.
3.      Take these general statements, and rewrite them making them more specific:
-          She was lovely;
-          It was an ugly house;
-          He was a handsome man;
-          Her mother was very mean.

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