Post March 06, 2018, 10:59:08 AM

Thoughts on Writing

Of Writing

I decided to write an essay on writing, but you’ll have to humor me because I’m not a professional. I’m just an amateur-----I like to read more than write. Why would someone who isn’t really qualified to write an essay on writing write one? It’s simple: When you’re looking up, you see all the stars, some brighter than others, some clustered around other stars and some just alone. The stars in the sky have been loved by great thinkers like Emersion and Thoreau through the years, and they have become a focal point when thinking creatively or just musing over life in general. However, the star are more!

Since our eyes are scouring the Heavens, we see Stephen King, John Saul, Kurt Vonnegut and the great ones: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, to name just a few. Their styles are different yet they entertain us with story telling based on words put together in unique and often interesting ways. How did they learn them? Most of them say read, read, read.

Good thoughts and techniques can be learned from books like Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. A Chapter on show/tell informs us not to tell too much, yet sometimes we have too. At the end of each chapter is a writing exercise which makes us think! Many good books on ‘How to Write’ are out there and I’ve notices that many sites on the web are devoted to the writing or poetry. Sometimes it is mind-boggling to surf through them. I believe many of those sites that charge money are just other sites that were copied, made to look different, some new and different words add, different color schemes and fonts added, then . . . we make some money from the unsuspected! Basic needs for writing must be mastered, and with a little practice one can success in acquiring them.

Writers must have a working knowledge of grammar, but thank God basic grammar will work, and we need not be on a high academic level of using grammar! Fragmented sentence work when needed. Semicolons shouldn’t be used according to Kurt Vonnegut. Just the basics are needed in grammar and thank God that’s enough. Believe when I say this: I’m no grammarian. Language majors have no problem, but guys like me who hated school--- thrown out once or twice-- and never learned grammar until about forty, well, you see with me grammar is still a foreign language. I’d like to know what the thoughts of others are on this subject, since we had many writers with various backgrounds in education write at Aphelion. All inputs are important for they contribute to the art of writing, and hopefully this short essay will stimulate others to think about writing and share their thoughts. It’s important to all of us!

On Writing by Stephen King is another fine book to read, and I enjoyed how he described the group sitting around a camp fire critiquing the stories of others which he thought reticulars exercise ! His vivid description of the attendees saying, “Oh, I don’t know . . . you know it doesn’t . . . well, to me there wasn’t the thing . . .! I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair at work! That was a good one and I believe his book should be read by all. It’s well worth it—and you’ll enjoy it. Now that’s important!

Using the active voice and not the passive voice is a standard in most cases. A passive voice is useful when describing a thief hiding behind a dumpster or a monster or evil alien ready to pounce on some unsuspecting victim. Make sure your dialogue sounds real. Vary your sentence lengths and use periodic sentence at times. Description is needed, but how much or how little? Sensory inputs help get the reader into the story, but again how much or how little? Words used in new and exciting ways are always welcome in fiction. And dialogue? Listen to others as they speak but one thing the books never mention, is the body movements----facial expression and skin tone and eyebrows rased as the person talks. That is surely another dimension to dialogue. I know, one might say that should be description. I agree it is description supporting dialogue. And using description when a person is talking, borders on the show principle .

The show and tell techniques must be balanced together somehow. How? I don’t really know. If you’re writing an action story and show too much, the action wanes. If you tell too much the reader isn’t really in it, is he? Balancing all the techniques when writing is an art within itself as far as I can see, for we see different authors juggling those techniques around to fit their style.

So we have show/tell, dialogue, description, sensory inputs, sentence lengths, word choices, active/passive voice, beats taken from Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, metaphors/similes, interior monologue, diction, paragraph lengths . . . just to name some. WOW!! Or should I say, Holy ( censored ). Sometimes I think everybody in the world had something to say about writing. And if they didn’t, someone else voiced their opinion for them. So lets see . . . .

Should we use adverbs? Should we use adjectives? Some authorities on writing suggest nouns! Nouns do work but not all the time. Adverbs seem to work and adjective are a must it seems, but the authors talent and experience becomes the factor in determining what modifiers are used. The dos and don’t when writing can be overwhelming, and before we realize it we are afraid to write anything for fear of doing it wrong! Don’t do this . . . don’t do that . . . do this . . . etc. Reminds me of being a kid again . . . brush your teeth, flush, be polite, don’t spit, respect your elders, take the dog for a walk, listen to your teachers at school------------ come on give me a Break!

As I said before, writing can’t be broken down into some mathematical formula or algorithm which if followed will produce our desired work. Good writing techniques will help, and we can all learn from others which will help point us in the right direction, but being pointed in the right direction and getting there isn’t as simple as following a road sign.

A story should grab, and I mean grab, your attention, and hold it from beginning to end. I stake my un-proven professional talent on that one! If you read a story and presumed that only fifteen minutes passed, then when you look at the chock and realize that two hours passed, then that’s the story I want to read!

My short essay isn’t intended to teach for I’m no expert, but intended to simulate thinking about writing. I’m no teacher for I’m still looking up at the stars and wondering how far the really are.

Another beneficial result from writing is respect. Believe me, I know this first hand. When you have to write you senator or representative on a federal or state level, the skills learned when describing some monster of evil alien can very easily be transferred into an emphatic statement that will be remembered and usually acted upon by the letter’s receiver! Oh how those adverbs
and adjectives jump into real action then!
Tesla Lives!!!