Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vision and Voice

These two words have a tighter connection than just appealing alliteration. Here’s the thing: If you really know exactly what you want to say, you’ll have exactly the words to say it. Unsure? Any or all of the following might undermine that passage:

·         Cliché
·         “Telling”
·         Ungainly sentences
·         Imprecise language
·         Mixed metaphor
·         Repetition of words or ideas  

Happily, there’s no need to glare at your laptop, fearing that you’re stuck with this tenth-rate paragraph because the concept’s a bit woozy. Revision can rescue the words, the sentences, and the incomplete picture they never quite articulate.

These strategies help you contemplate your laptop neutrally, if not downright cheerfully.

v  Brainstorm a bit.
Jot down crazy possibilities for how to develop this moment. Something on your list might not be crazy at
all. You only need one “something.”

v  Shake things up.
Maybe you can’t write the scene because it doesn’t interest you. Turn it inside out to eliminate the
predictability problem.

v  Use the concrete world.
 “No ideas but in things,” William Carlos Williams said. He was right.

v  Eliminate something.
 The constraint of substituting for a missing character or scene or device can force an explosion of

v  Develop a minor character.
 “Less is usually more,” but not always, especially if a minor character resonates with either the antagonist
 or protagonist.

v  Introduce a new source of tension.
 Cornered characters are always more fun to follow, not to mention more fun for novelists to write.

v  Revise.
 Continue methodically reworking the passage until it gets clear. But revisit it, rather than staring and
staring, hoping for a solution. Remarkable how clarity generates exactly the right words.

High school teachers, including yours truly, sometimes assign separate grades for “content” and “presentation.” Here’s a secret: these supposed opposites more closely resemble a circle than divisive components.

Tip: Vision enhances voice, which enhances vision. Circles are beautiful things.

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