Elizabeth Sims has a terrific blog on craft. I like almost everything she writes, but there are some true-blue keepers. One of my favorites from earlier this year is, "Generous Writing: What is it?" March 27th, 2014.
Here, with two contrasting sentences, she illustrates generosity in writing:
"He was a pale guy, not just ordinary pale, but really extremely pale."
"There Jerome hung, skinny, sunken-chested, as white as a saltine, his face scrunched up and one hand clutching his nuts." (Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex)
How can each of us, on every page, give our readers MORE? How can we express the ordinary in new ways? Or, surprise with unlikely couplings of images and sensory details? How do we dig deeper, then further, then onward still?
Can we empty our pockets, turn them out, fish out every pill of lint, tarnished bauble, folded paper, knotted string and sleeping frog?
Recently, I finished reading, "All the Light We Cannot See," by Anthony Doerr. His writing slayed me. I can't remember when I've been so moved by both story and prose. Doerr is a writer who is ridiculously generous with the reader. He gifts us with ways of looking and seeing that suggest we all could do better in seeing and knowing, and then, in turn, gift our readers with the same.
Here is one of his sentences about two people walking.
"They clomp together through the narrow streets, Marie-Laure's hand on the back of Madame's apron, following the odors of stews and cakes; in such moments Madame seems like a great moving wall of rosebushes, thorny and fragrant and crackling with bees." p. 242
Crackling with bees.
Words really are our coin and currency. Let's be generous.
Here is a link to Elizabeth Sim's blog:
And rounding out today's threesome - a photo of a generous sky:
Several years ago, torrential rainfall flooded the walking paths in our local park. Since walking our regular route was less than ideal, my husband and I took a bike ride instead. As we entered the ever-deepening water, I happened to glance down and beheld a small school of fish swimming alongside us.
We were biking with fish.
Writing can be organic and surprising when we stay open to synchronicity and juxtaposition . It's the brave writer indeed who treads into unchartered waters and allows their characters and stories to show them the unexpected and unforeseen. What about your characters sets them apart? (Despereaux was a mouse with "obscenely large ears." Matilda had extraordinary mental powers. Harry Potter ... well, you know.) Maybe they have a suppressed dream, or - most illuminating of all - a secret kept ... There are many, many ways that characters can come alive on the page for writer and reader. Our task is to search out the unexpected, and welcome it onto the page.
Here's a link to the Explore Minnesota bike trail information site. You know, in case you need a fish fix.
As writers there is no end to our fears:
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of never being published.
Or if we're published, then fear of not being read.
Or if our stories are read, then they're not read enough to warrant another book sale. Ever.
Fear of never having another idea for a story ...
There is no end to the dread, anxieties, fears and worries that assail us every day. It's a wonder - dare I say, "a miracle?" - that any of us have the wherewithal to write at all. Except that THAT is precisely the only possible response in our arsenal - to trust, believe and own that, "Everything we want is on the other side of fear." Fear is our Looking Glass, our portal, our gateway ... we have to go through it to reach what we want.
Although, as writers, we will never be "Fear Free," I wish you fear-less writing.
Here's a link to Elizabeth Gilbert's most recent post about fear.
For most writers, running out of a coffee is also a soul sucking dread.
I grew up surrounded by woods and learned early on how to spot where the wild things stalked, climbed, scampered, flew, perched and hid - in the trees, upon the ground, or within the dark murkiness of hole and crevice.
Writing offers up all sorts of wild things, too: unexpected characters, odd plot twists, strange sidetracks ... But these wild things are far more cunning than any living creature. Sometimes you need to follow them. Sometimes you need to let them be. And sometimes, the only way to KNOW if a wild thing should be captured iis to follow them first, watch what happens when they live in your story, and then decide.
A two-nosed villain showed up in my recent novel. She turned out to be a most interesting and vital wild thing. Even though I was sure Revenue Cognescenti had no business in my story, I followed her and let her show me where she lived, and how and why. I ended up loving her best of all.
Don't be afraid of your wild things. Always be ready and willing for a rumpus.
* * *
Christopher Walken reads "Where the Wild Things Are."
This is a painting by my aunt, Edie Abnet. She loves wild things, too.
I write Middle Grade Novels. They're fantastical and magical and quirky - the kind of books I loved to read as a child. And still, do. I believe in these books and they believe in me.