Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poet Tricks for Novelists

Doesn’t orange juice taste good any time of day? Aren’t bouquets welcome without a special occasion? Isn’t poetry’s something every writer should know about? That includes novelists.

Techniques that novelists might borrow from poets:

~ Artlessness.

In “Adam’s Curse” (about life outside Paradise”), Yeats wrote: “A line will take us hours maybe;/Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,/Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.”

Work hard enough to make it sound as if you never worked at all.

~ Big Ideas.

Wallace Stevens observes in “Sunday Morning” (about alternate spiritualities) that “Death is the mother of beauty.”

Emotion and suspense drive novels. Using irony and imagery, you can add beliefs, as well.  Layering gives poetry substance. It never hurt a novel, either.

~ Brevity

“My sky is black with small birds heading south,” notes Edna St. Vincent Millay in a sonnet about love—and its aftermath.

So much emotion in so few words. In such simple language. What Emily Dickinson called, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off…” Couldn’t every writer seek that kind of explosion?

~ Passion.

Dylan Thomas’s villanelle insists, “Do not go gentle into that good night/…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

In novels, rhyme generally distracts. But characters frenzied over philosophy, morality, love, and, hate—that’s the stuff that fiction’s made of. Because intensity distracts readers from the mundane, unheroic, patternless amorality of everyday life.

~ Propulsion.

Emily Brontë celebrated the heath she loved with “Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,/Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.” For novelists, rhythm often involves risk. But take no risks, and you might be good. You’ll just never be great.

Tip: Read some poetry. This could be an investment that pays off.

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