Of Pictures in Writing and Writing in Pictures

Oh, yay! I am finally done writing the story of Moving Forwards, so now I can begin the rewriting/editing phase.

But wait, this would be an opportune moment to throw in some advice on writing, so let’s rewind and change the point of view:

Oh, yay! You are finally done writing your novel/short story/narrative poem… your story. Now all you have to do is send it off to a publishing house, right?

No! First you have to look it through and edit it, tidy it up if you will, because a first draft always has some irregularities. Some things that do not do the story or idea you had justice.

So where to start?

I usually start at the beginning (I am SO original) and read the whole story through looking for:

  • The words or combination of words: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, ‘as if’
  • ‘Began to’
  • Too many adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Passive sentences
  • Points of view
  • ‘could see’, ‘could feel’, ‘could smell’
  • The pace of the story
  • Interposed sentences
  • Very long sentences
  • Repetition of small words like ‘so’, ‘and’, ‘then’
  • Things that are irrelevant to the story

This may seem like a rather long list, and many of the points will need clarification, but it is a very tangible list, and I recommend making one like it to anyone who wants to edit his/her writing. Of course, the points on this list do not work for all stories. For example, in my story Misfortune I use quite a lot of passive sentences. Can you guess why? 😉

Where do they come from all of these very tangible points?

Well, some of them have to do with pictures.

One should think that writing is about words, but actually it is about pictures. That is, the pictures the readers get in their heads when they read what you have written. The stronger these pictures are the better. Also, if you want to tell a specific story then it is a good idea to give the readers the right pictures or it will not come across as you planned.

For example, if you use the word ‘dog’.

Think about that word: ‘Dog’.

It can bring thousands of different associations with it, both positive and negative, and if you ask different people about the ‘dog in their mind’

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone,...

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you will get both Chihuahuas and Great Danes.

Now think about the word ‘puppy’. It is still a dog, but most people will here envision a small one of the kind and probably a cute one too.

Deutsch: Ein Wolfspitz-Sibirian Husky Welpe En...

A Keeshond-Sibirian Husky puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, if you write ‘flea-bitten hearthrug’ you will give your readers a quite different picture.

Which is the right one to use depends on the situation. You have to know, what you want your readers to ‘see’.

Also, remember that your readers might not always get the same associations as you do when they read a word. If you want other people to read your story, it is best to use the words that will get the right associations and pictures across to the largest number of people.

Let us pretend that you have written a story about a dog. If you have written that it is a ‘small dog’, change it. If you mean that it is a Chihuahua, write ‘Chihuahua’, if the kind of dog is not relevant to the story, but you want people to think of the dog as cute, write ‘puppy’. Both words give stronger pictures to your readers.

I found a new puppy to take pictures of, you'l...

Chihuahua puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which leads me to the first point on the list, words like: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, etc.

These words tend to weaken otherwise strong words and pictures.

For example, why write ‘very big’ when you could write ‘enormous’? Do not be afraid to exaggerate. It only improves the reading experience.

If you compare ‘She almost knocked him off his feet’ and ‘She knocked him off his feet’ is the latter not more fun? Or if you do not like the change in meaning how about ‘Her blow made him reel’?

Consider the sentence: ‘His face was a little pale.’ Here ‘a little’ adds nothing new to the sentence. His face was pale, so write it: ‘His face was pale.’

That is it for now. I will save the rest of the list for some other day.

But how about you?

Do you have a ‘watch-list’ for editing your writing? Or are you perhaps going to make one now?

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20 Comments

  1. some great advice here…

    Reply
  2. Julie Catherine

     /  April 22, 2012

    I think my list is similar to yours … I would add spelling, grammar and punctuation (even if you already checked them, but then, I’m a bit OCD) …. 🙂 Awesome post with really good tips and advice; I love it! ~ Julie 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m very glad you liked it 🙂
      Grammar is important too of course and a well placed comma can be more significant than one should think…
      Thank you for reading 🙂

      Reply
  3. Goona leave da crib and show this to all my dawgs.

    Reply
  4. Speaking of my precious princess…she shadowed me today as I came downstairs and did not seemed amused as I went past the door to grab my coffee before letting her out. What was I thinking? She is a black English Cocker…spoiled and feeling neglected. As if that would ever happen.
    Peach State

    Reply
    • Err.. I think I missed something somewhere?

      Reply
      • Sorry…I was taking your topic of using different descriptive words to the next level and mixing it with the pictures of the dogs. I did not mean to throw a wrench into your comments!
        Peach State

      • Don’t apologize, I just didn’t catch your meaning, but I see it now 🙂
        And thank you for reading 🙂

  5. Very good advice! I’m “self-taught”, so, none of this is in my “workbook” yet. thanks!

    Reply
    • Thank you 🙂
      If you are new to writing, some good writing courses can be both enlightening and inspiring.
      Thank you for reading 🙂

      Reply
  6. Reblogged this on oyiabrown.

    Reply
  7. Paul J. Stam

     /  May 23, 2012

    First of all, glad you liked the congress bit on Paper, Mud and Me. Being a novelist myself I was very interested in this writing bit from you. I haven’t read anything other than this but I will be back and following. This bit is right on.

    Reply
  8. Great post – specificity rules!

    Reply
  9. Reading in pictures. I like it. It reminds me of writing a screenplay when you want to show what a character is doing and not have the characters talking the whole time. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome 🙂
      It has much to do with the ‘show don’t tell’ method. Reading should be an experience, not an explanation.
      Thank you for reading and the many comments 🙂

      Reply
  1. About First Drafts and More of the List « A Bolg?

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