Friday, November 25, 2011

Writing in the Moment

I decided to take a creative writing class in the spring semester.  I decided to do it because, being human, I don't know everything.  Shocking, I know, but it does happen.  There are two reasons for taking this class.
  1. I love feedback.  As a writer, it is invaluable.  Taking this class will expose me to a lot of different viewpoints and opinions.  This is a good thing
  2. It will expose me to a style I've never tried (playwriting).  Even if I never write in this format after this class, I'm a firm believer in the more you know, the better.  Plays are dialog driven, so if nothing else, it will help learn some good dialog techniques.
The class only has one textbook (which I have already purchased).  I'm generally not one to read classroom textbooks unless I have to.  Usually, they are dry and boring.  Not so with this one.  It actually practices what it preaches, good creative writing.  Even if you are not a student, I would highly recommend it as a useful tool in improving your craft.  The book in question is: The Practice of Creative Writing : A Guide for Students by Heather Sellers.  A new copy will run you about $40 on, but there are used copies for less.  I bought the new one as I wanted a clean copy for when I need to mark in it.

Among the numerous bits of information that I've picked up from this book is the concept of "writing in the moment".  It is the practice of imagining a scene and writing the "action" and not the "thought".  It is actually more difficult than you would think.  You have to focus on the movement.  You let the action of the scene explain what is going on.  Instead of saying "Joe thought the sunrise looked pretty", you would say "Joe marveled as the sky slowly change from the dark of night, to a vivid blue, as the sun rose over the hillside".  Although the second sentence is a little long winded, it evokes more activity than him just thinking about how it was a pretty sunrise.

As I've said, it isn't easy to maintain that type of image.  With more practice, I'm sure it gets easier.  The book lists several aids to help you center yourself in an image while writing.  One of things it suggests is sketching the scene (if you are artistically inclined).  If you lack the requisite artistic talent (or just don't want to), the book lists several questions you can ask yourself to help solidify the scene in your head.  If you don't see the scene clearly, then neither will the reader.  Another thing about the scene, it isn't a static image.  Even standing still, people, and their environment, are in motion.  Don't write static images, they are boring.

The other thing this book strongly encourages is to read.  Sounds easy, right?  Not necessarily, you need to read and pay attention to what works and what doesn't.  What scenes evoke good images and what scenes make it difficult to image.  When you run into either of those, really look at how the writer used the language.  Reading what others have written is a really good way to learn the do's and don'ts.

Till next time.

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