In art, I like paintings of trees to look like trees. I have trouble understanding lots of poetry (unless it’s fairly literal), and I don’t naturally think in figures of speech. (Unless I’m mad, that is–at which point, I think in cliché’s like You’re such a turkey or My office is a pit or I’ve lost my mind.)
None of this is helpful to me as a creative writer. When it comes to my writing, I very rarely create figures of speech naturally. I do love them! Beautiful metaphors linger in my memory for years–even decades–after reading certain books. I love magical writing that lifts me up and away to a different time and place!
But when it comes to writing lyrical language, I need help.
If you don’t naturally write with pizzazz and power, is all lost? Is there a way to rise above being a meat-and-mashed-potatoes writer to a gourmet writer? Thankfully, YES!
Several of you have asked me what things I’m studying this spring and summer. One thing I’m working on is language.
My vocabulary needs expanding. So first I created what Priscilla Long in The Writer’s Portable Mentor calls a lexicon. It’s a place (journal) to collect new words you read and like, specific words for things, and the history of words. I also signed up at Dictionary.com for their “new word per day” to be emailed to me. (Still hoping to use “fungible” in a sentence sometime!)
An Entire Course
Then I remembered a book on my shelves by Cindy Rogers called Word Magic for Writers: Your Source for Powerful Language that Enchants, Convinces, and Wins Readers. I’d been given the book as an ICL instructor several years ago, had read some chapters, but never actually studied it. I think, starting June 1, I am going to use this book as a study book for my summer learning.
As Cindy says, “An excellent writer knows the importance of an interesting turn of phrase, of a crisp image that leaves an impression, of a parting thought that lingers in a reader’s mind. A word alchemist knows how to extend a group of words to grab or sway or enchant an audience.” In other words, an excellent writer grows from being a solid (but bland) meat-and-potatoes writer into a gourmet writer.
That’s what I want. I bet that’s what you want too. And in the current economic publishing conditions, it just might be what raises your writing to a level that outshines the competition. “The payoff of a terrific scene or speech versus a mediocre one is substantial,” says the author, “for it compels an audience to pay attention.” And the first audience member we have to compel is the editor at the publishing house.
Figures of Speech–and More
The book is divided in three parts: language devices (from alliteration to zeugma, including figures of speech), dazzling word choices and techniques (writing with power and style), and hooking the audience (titles, headlines, openings, endings). Each chapter by itself will teach you something about improving your writer’s language.
As I study this summer, and apply what I learn, perhaps my blogs will become more lyrical. Still nuts-and-bolts practical (since that’s who I am), but hopefully the writing will become more…magical.
We shall see!