Paint Me a Word Picture

“Any fool can pick a rose and pluck its petals, but the man of genius breathes its scent and paints its forms: that is the kind of author we will read.” – Essay on Novels; The Marquis de Sade

That is such a lovely quote, I had trouble figuring out how to follow it up!

Unless you are a technical writer, compiling how-to manuals for ‘some assembly required’ projects or writing textbooks for engineers… writing and composing involves much more than just listing facts on a page. Writing is an art form.

Storytellers don’t just recount events in the order in which they happened. No. We attempt to paint pictures with words. To set the scene, we hope to make the reader feel the cold wind blowing off the North Sea or the scorching heat of the desert sun. We use beautiful language to describe the tastes of the food or the taste of a lover’s kiss. Can you smell the smoke from the burning village or of sound of screaming and the clash of swords? Feel the textures of skin against skin in a gentle caress or in a bare knuckle brawl?

Anthropologically, storytelling in the form of song or saga has been used to help the balladeer or the skald keep the oral history of a people alive. It is some of the earliest writing ever discovered. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, dates back to 2000 BCE. Another Sumerian text, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, may be even older than that. Can you imagine the story surviving if the tale was dull and lacking life? Or if it were just a chronological list of situations and incidents?

Fiction writing is not a roll call.

As writers, we have stories within us just begging to be told. Perhaps they are based on an interesting life full of adventures  or one filled with anguish and tragedy. The Marquis de Sade, for example, was imprisoned for most of his life. (See Citizen Sade by Mr. Cake of cakeordeathsite) His uncontrollable nature led him to behave in a most outrageous way. However, despite the unavoidable outcome, he believed that his desires should not be suppressed, for to do so would go against that very nature. Inevitably, it got him in a lot of trouble. Yet, there is more to the man than his bad reputation. (See Yet Another Effort also by Mr. Cake -he is writing a series of posts on the Marquis)

Alternatively, maybe we are keen observers, listeners -able to conjure a story by watching a couple argue at a restaurant or seeing a child apart from all the other children playing on the playground. We ask why or what happens next? All the joy and pain, the desperate hopes, the unbreakable spirit, the crushed dreams and lost loves pour onto the page. Those strong emotions, however, produce the most powerful writing. Writing that has life…

That is the reward of writing – touching the heart and mind of the reader- to entertain at a minimum, but even better, to stimulate the mind, to stir the emotions, captivate the spirit, shake it to the core. It’s a heady thing– moving a soul. Choose carefully, the words you’re about to commit to paper. Craft them with skill, arrange them just so. Speak them aloud to see how they roll off the tongue. Inhale the scent of the rose and paint its forms.

Header Image: Still Life With Roses – Pierre-Auguste Renoir 

28 thoughts on “Paint Me a Word Picture

    1. Thank you, Cake. I am saving The Chateau for a future post. I think it will fit better with the one on moral earnestness. It is quite serendipitous that we are writing about the Marquis at the same time (ish) I am glad to share your posts – why reinvent the wheel?

      Liked by 1 person

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