Adventures in fiction writing.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The longer you write, the more you will find yourself using the same or similar words and phrases over and over again. Especially if we write conversationally –the way we speak in everyday life. Our speech may be reflective of the region in which we live or were born and raised, our ethnic origins or even our age. While these peculiarities will lend color and flavor to our writing, even they may get repetitive after a while. This is only amplified when we write longer fiction pieces or novels. Beyond using a thesaurus to change up specific repetitions, how else can we add variation to the words we pen?
Some of my earliest writing was in the form of poetry. That is not a coincidence. Poetry is introduced to us in the cradle by means of nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies. As we grow and mature into our teen years and beyond, often music becomes a huge influence. Thus the lyrics of songs speak to us the way nothing else can. Many musicians like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Patty Smith, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen are considered to be not just song writers but poets as well.
Anthropologically, poetry 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 through story telling. 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.
What am I getting at, you ask? Poetry composition can be a delightful way to hone our skills in using creative vocabulary and illustative terminology. “But, I don’t want to be a poet,” you say. Shut up, yes you do. Here’s why…
I do enjoy writing poetry, but it is not my main avenue of expression. I am primarily a fiction writer. However, composing poetry demands that we paint a picture with our words, if you will. Putting things into verse, even if the verse doesn’t rhyme, pushes you to use descriptive and colorful terms that you wouldn’t use in day-to-day speech.
In describing my front lawn, for example, you could simply state, “the lawn was full of dead dandelions,” and that would be true! Before you write that ask, “What do those dandelions remind me of?” “What idea do they conjure?” They are dead, so how about headstones in a graveyard? They are skinny, so how about emaciated refugees fleeing a disaster or famine? They have tufts of thin, white spores… does that remind you of hair or clouds or even foam at the crest of a wave? Now write it like this, “Like a wave of fleeing refugees, the dandelions marched across the expanse of grass.”
I didn’t write a poem, but I wrote a poetic sentence. Obviously, a little of that can go a long way. Every sentence does not have to be metaphorical in nature. But in the right place, it can transform ordinary writing into extraordinary writing. I encourage you, if you have not attempted to write poetry before now, give it a try. You can find many accomplished poets here on WordPress as well as bloggers who sponsor poetry challenges. Why not give one a try? If you really can’t think of anything, try rewriting the lyrics of a favorite song. Remember, this is practice for fiction writing. Nevertheless, perhaps you will find that at heart, you are a poet after all.