Writing Tip — Evoking Sight

watercolor-2332129_12803I really like the post on Almost an Author using sight in our writing.  You can read my comment on the exercise Mr. Young proposes. It’s extremely useful to remind writers to slow down and truly observe a scene.

Most of us write by sight. What kind of writing you do effects your visual descriptions. Novelists can add more detail than a short story writer, but a short story writer may come up with an extraordinarily vivid description because of the constraints of the form.

One area of sight I want to improve is the use of color in my writing. We are so used to seeing color that we take it for granted unless the color is unusual in some way, especially ugly, pretty, vivid, and so on.

G.K. Chesterton used color very effectively in his writing. I discovered him through his Father Brown short stories. I tried reading them at twenty and didn’t understand them at all. But I did remember his descriptions of landscapes. When I went back to the stories years later, I could appreciate them so much more as well as his skill in writing with color like a painter.

profession-1923499_1280Here are some of my favorite examples from the short story collection The Innocence of Father Brown:

“They awoke before it was daylight; for a large lemon moon was only just setting in the forest of high grass above their heads, and the sky was of a vivid violet-blue, nocturnal but bright. ”           From “The Sins of Prince Saradine”

Describing a duel : “Everything above them was a dome of virgin gold, and, distant as they were, every detail was picked out. They had cast off their coats, but the yellow waistcoat and white hair of Saradine, the red waistcoat and white trousers of Antonelli, glittered in the level light like the colors of the dancing clockwork dolls.”       From “The Sins of Prince Saradine”

“In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop at the corner, a confectioner’s, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One should rather say, like the butt of a firework, for the light was of many colors and some complexity, broken up by many mirrors and dancing on many gilt and gaily-colored cakes and sweetmeats.”      From “The Invisible Man”

My favorite story by Chesterton is “The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse” collected in Thirteen Detectives. The plot hinges on the fact that in the late nineteenth century, army uniforms were based on regiment colors, not the terrain where the army was located. The ending is a tremendous paradox, a speciality of Chesterton’s, and I never saw it coming, but once it arrives, it makes perfect sense.

Tomorrow I have a guest post on a friend’s blog, so I will talk more about colors in my own writing next week.

Writing Tip — Reading Out Loud

teachers-23820_1280Since I’ve been posting about sound, I thought I would add one more article on the topic: reading your work out loud.

C. S. Lewis advised writing for the ear, not the eye, “make every sentence sound good.” To read more about the writing advice Lewis offered, click here.  It’s a post I’ve linked to before.

Establishing a rhythm to your writing takes a lot of experience and practice.  But reading out loud can benefit even beginning writers in a few different ways.

Catching typos.  I speak slower than I read, so when I read aloud, I find more mistakes. It keeps me from skimming a familiar work.

Weeding out bad structure. This comes under making “every sentence sound good.” When I am writing a first draft, I get the words down any old way.  Reading aloud can help me find sentences that are clunky or just plain ugly.  The meaning is clear, but I need to find a more elegant or concise way to phrase it.

Smashing writer’s block. If you are stuck in a particular part of your writing, read it out loud and see if hearing your work provokes any ideas.

Working on dialogue. I don’t know if many writers do this, but I sometimes speak my dialogue while I am writing it or even if I am just thinking about it. (But I make sure I’m alone first.) It helps me make the conversation sound more natural and sometimes, as my characters talk among themselves, I find a new avenue to take in my writing.

As you write more, you will want to explore rhythm in your writing. The passage in my novel where my main character is sneaking through the night is one I am going to read out loud because I think if I can establish a rhythm in this section, it will make it more suspenseful.

 

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