by Wayne Harris-Wyrick - guest contributor
Sometime you may find yourself plodding along on that novel or article and realize that it lacks sparkle. What can you do to add zing to your words? Try switching genres.
Prose writing, particularly certain types of articles, is often dry and pedantic by nature. Or so it often seems. Even the most detailed account of how to tune up your car need not overflow with boring descriptions. Yet readers have an expectation when they open the book or particular magazine and start to read your words.
Try this exercise: write the first chapter of the book or major premise of your article as a poem. Breathe new vibrancy into your work. As Richard Pettinger wrote “A good poem should be able to lift the reader out of the ordinary and give glimpses of a more illumining reality, engage the heart of the reader, or offer hope from seemingly painful experience.” Engage your reader’s heart, regardless of what you write. Try it as a rhymed poem or an ancient Greek epic poem. Or perhaps an Elizabeth Barrett Browning love poem. “How can I fly faster than light? Let me count the ways.”
Is your exposition flat? Are you telling instead of showing? Try writing the entire piece as a screenplay, allowing only dialogue and limited descriptions of the characters’ actions. Describe your character’s physical appearance as if he or she shared a first-time intimacy with a blind person. How would the blind lover later describe your character to their best friend the next morning? She never saw him, so the description would have to include only what she could glean: the sound of his voice, the feel of his skin, or the taste of his lips. She might relay how he smelled or the texture of his clothes. Remember: this blind person isn’t giving a fashion report; she is describing a budding love relationship.
Write your science fiction or horror novel as a children’s picture book. I know, it’s totally inappropriate for young kids, but that’s not the point. How few words can you use to create your scene? And imagine the illustrations that would go with it. Better still, draw them! Anything you can do to increase your immersion in your own story will make your words more enjoyable to your readers.
Write your YA urban fantasy as a newspaper report. A newspaper article must have who, what, when and where in the first two paragraphs. And newspaper editors cut from the bottom up when the article is too long to fit around the ads. That’s why it sometimes seems as if a newspaper story was cut off in the middle. Write it out, then remove a paragraph or two and see if it still makes sense. You certainly don’t want your novel to read like it’s right out of the newspaper, but by going to the extreme of dry writing you may be able to drain it all out of your manuscript.
Whatever you write, use to all the instruments of in the writer’s toolbox. If you aren’t familiar with all the tools, learn them. Your readers will thank you for your hard work.