Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Elements of Style

Ahhh...class is in session. OK....about that wind whipping about ghostlike in your story and why it works... Look up metaphor and any grammar text. This is the nifty writers' tool for saying such as My father was like a tree, tall and straight and beautiful....LIKE is the get to this kind of metaphor via LIKE and the word AS used in the "double AS" sense... Example: When I was a kid, my dad was as tall as a tree, and just as straight and beautiful.

 Like and AS - your keys to how disparate things are alike....creating a connection between truly unconnected things. A man is not a tree...but we can imagine he is LIKE a tall Oak. Or Mother was as hard and callous as stone (logically impossible but metaphorically possible).

 Take it a step farther and often it is cool if you can turn the metaphor or simile - how things are kinda sorta alike to say they are equals, THE SAME. This is an absolute statement. Absolutes take you to a higher level of IMAGERY (which this is all in your readers' minds). Look up Absolutes - words that are absolute...EXAMPLE... The fog is a veil. It is not LIKE a veil or as thick as a g'damn sure IS a veil...IS acts as an EQUAL (=) SIGN.

'Nother example. The man is a walking cipher, or timepiece, or enigma. The man is a walking encyclopedia. More flowery might be: The thick jungle became a carpet of blackness by nightfall. A camel is a horse created by committee.  Lots of jokes rely on metaphor, simile, and absolutes.
It is also an absolute to say simply this: The fog lifted from the carpeted cemetery.

THINK about that sentence. The fog did not SEEM to be lifting...did not perhaps or maybe begin to make a move toward lifting (Qualifiers - BAD for sentences, weakens them). No, the fog "ABSOLUTELY" lifted, NO doubt about it. AND the cemetery is absolutely carpeted....ever been to Arlington National Cemetery?

This is the magic secret surrounding that kind of thinking. My wife wrote a novel, The Well Meaning Killer. She had me edit it, of course, and there was a scene where her heroine goes out for a jog in the city of Baltimore and all along her route are trash bags for delivery pick up in her neighborhood, and being a cop, her first thought is how it looks...It looked as if the street was littered with body bags.

She put the bags out there; I merely suggested the body bag image come from her character's sense of things. The author liked it, and she added it.

 Of course, if you like the ghost image I added in this article in first paragraph, and it is likely that you do, by all means it is YOURS for the taking. No one owns imagery, symbolism, representational language. Hey even Shakespeare learned from authors that came before Plutarch from who he stole much.

 Well just be certain to look up Qualifiers in a grammar book to know what to avoid; sometimes, as in the use of sometimes in this sentence, a qualifier like some, very, maybe, perhaps, etc. is 'absolutely' needed but most are way overused, for instance a word like VERY, maybe, perhaps, and the phrases 'I think' and 'in my opinion' and 'to me'....when it is totally NOT needed and only undercuts your strong sentence, weakening it.

 By all means, look up Absolutes, words that are opposite in nature to Qualifiers. No wishy-washy with these words and using them MOST of the time, working toward all the time (all is absolute, most is qualifier) makes your fiction STRONG in voice so the reader BELIEVES you and is so willing to follow you because you are not 'hedging' like a politician (in my opinion).

This coupled with metaphor and simile gives readers a strong visual image deposited in their minds. One reviewer once said of my book of the time, "Mr. Walker quite literally snatches the reader's mind for the duration of the book!" -- Midwest Book Review, it was. Love that as that is my watchword stamped in my mind's eye is MAKE it COMPELLING - and do not forget to bring in your POV character in each scene via his five senses, his eyes, brain, hands, nose, smeller, taster, ears.

These are the elements of style. For more find my Dead on Writing on Kindle books or read my Titanic 2012 or Bismarck 2013 to determine if I practice what I preach.

I hope you will find time to comment here!
Rob Walker


Ana Lee Kennedy said...

What a nice blog!

I've been an author and editor for 25 years now and have taught the fundamentals of creative writing too. It's nice to find a site that does the same. I've signed up to receive your posts by email.

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