Monday, September 16, 2013

The Word Image





My pastor once said, “Words don’t mean anything until you see it.” He went on to discuss how the sum of the words we read or hear reveal a concept that produces a mental image. He was talking about spiritual things of course, but in addition to reflecting on the truths within, I thought about the parallel to writing.

As writers, we know this is important. But knowing and doing are two different things. How do you translate images from your mind so that readers see what you're saying?

Do you use...

Vivid images?

Sharp writing?

Similes & metaphors?

Good editing?

All of the above?

When writing fiction, such as my work in progress set in colonial America, I set scenes and action in my head, mentally sketching, observing, and compiling sensory details as I write. Resources like The Emotion Thesaurus enhance and expand the setting, action, and dialogue. Fiction author Jody Hedlund says she thinks of each scene as a stage, and you only want so many characters on the stage at a time. I like this idea; it clarifies the story and characters and limits reader confusion.

For non fiction, I've learned a lot by writing lessons. There's something about explaining concepts to others that is a catalyst for clear communication. It also helps to ditch excess words like very and really that do not boost our writing as much as we think. A balance of sensory words and specific details further shape ideas to get the point across.

Feedback from other writers is another great tool for both fiction and non fiction. Outside input illustrates how effective our words are.

What do you think? What helps you communicate with your readers?

Have a great week!

Happy writing,

Karen

P.S. Susan J. Reinhardt is hosting a Goodreads giveaway for her book, The Moses Conspiracy. Check out the details here.
 
Photo credit: Stock Exchange


35 comments :

  1. Hi Karen,

    All of the above, at least I hope that's how I communicate with readers. I also hope the emotions I felt when writing translate on the page.

    Love the fall photo!

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  2. Whenever I write something, I find that writing from the heart helps me communicate to my readers most effectively.

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  3. All of the above. Along with revising, revising, revising!

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  4. I think the years I was involved in theatre helps tremendously. I do mentally "block" scenes like a director (choreograph how characters move within a scene) as part of my planning process. I often also try to visualize everything in my mind as if it were a film before writing it.

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  5. Feedback definitely helps because I know how I see something, but I always ask specific questions to my CPs so that what I'm trying to convey translates.

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  6. Donna,
    Yes, I think you are right, the emotions play a big role! Love this photo too, Not quite showing too many colors here yet, how about in your neck of the woods? :)

    Keith,
    You know, I think this is so true, and people can usually tell when you are being real. :)

    Ruth,
    Yes, where would we be without that stage, right? :)

    Laurel,
    That's a great point. I suspect that gives you a great edge! Writers, particularly of fiction do act as choreographers. :)

    Jennifer,
    I know, feedback is one of my best tools. My daughter helps out a lot in this area. She's a great editor.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  7. I've learned to rely more on the senses to describe what I see. All five senses. No, it didn't come easy.

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  8. I keep working on vivid imagery and similes, but I have to agree with Alex. Using all five senses as much as possible in each scene helps make my writing more vivid. I haven't mastered that, but I keep trying. As an old writing teacher used to say (and write all over my papers), "what's the quality of light?" - which meant "show how the character is reacting to her surroundings - is the sun glaring in her eyes because she's having a bad day, or is it bright and beautiful because she's having a good day?"

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  9. I think of each scene as a movie playing in my head. I pay close attention to the characters - their actions and words, and then the background...the things I would notice as a watcher. Great thinking post, Karen!

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  10. Wise words! I use all of the above, if I can!

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  11. Alex,
    I agree, this is one of the best ways to share stories with the reader. :) I've always thought reading should engage all the senses as much as possible.

    Tyrean,
    I'm a work in progress in that area too! Always learning, aren't we? :) I like what your teacher asked, that's a good thing to remember.

    Loree,
    Yes, I agree, the details we pay attention to - those are the kinds of things that go into a scene. Thanks a bunch! :)

    Lydia,
    Thanks! Yes, we have great tools available, don't we? :0

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  12. I write spare, then go back and add detail. Often, what I see in my head doesn't make it on paper first!

    Thanks for sharing your methods, Karen.

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  13. Same stuff here, though sometimes I have to stage it for real (act it out) to get parts straight!

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  14. The senses, the senses, the senses! Great post, amigo. I love Jody's idea. Schweet! It don't come easy. You know?

    Hugs amigo. MWAH!

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  15. I imagine reading a particular scene out loud to my grandson as if we were sharing a favorite story of his and make it complete with voices and facial expressions. If it keeps his attention, then it will probably work as a scene. Of course, I'm referring to non-adult literature here.

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  16. Southpaw,
    I've done that too! There's something about going through the motions that helps get it down right, isn't there? :-)

    Theresa,
    You know, I need to try that. I often struggle to get it all down right the first time. Glad you shared that! :-)

    Robyn,
    All about the senses, you got that right! We're getting it, aren't we? :-) Hugs back!

    Walk,
    I think the same principles apply for most genres, you know? That's a great point, glad you brought it up. Good to see you! :-)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  17. Hi Karen! I didn't even know there was such a thing as an Emotional Thesaurus. Thanks for that!

    I am struggling with making non-fiction impactful. Not just listing things or worrying about chronology. So...that is my challenge for the next few weeks.

    I have thought about meeting with other writers. A library in another town has a group. Don't know if I'm ready for that, but it's a good idea, like you mentioned.

    Love the photo...love fall!
    Ceil

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  18. That's why I enjoy writing non-fiction so much now. Teaching it to someone else helps me learn it better and communication seems clearer.

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  19. All of the above is my intent when I sit at the keyboard, but I'll be the first to admit I don't always pull it off. It takes revision and editing for me to hit the mark, and even then, many times, I'm still unsatisfied!

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  20. Ceil,
    The Emotion Thesaurus is a great book. I highly recommend it! The authors are nearly finished a new book too (I forget the title) but it will be good as well, I'm sure. Love this photo too, wish I could say I took it! :) Fall is my favorite season.

    Diane,
    I'm with you, non fiction has helped me a lot. I think of it as cross training, if you will. :)

    Lisa,
    I don't pull it off as much as I'd like either. I tell myself I am a work in progress, always learning! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  21. I'm a visual person so I like to write scenes that could easily be translated into a movie scene:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  22. Yup, no surprise here. It's all of the above. And for good reason. With a ton of distractions, we owe it to our readers to make the story come alive. Hi, Karen!

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  23. Thanks for sharing your method, Karen.

    Once on the paper, I revise, then brainstorm with my CP.

    Nas

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  24. Nutschell,
    Ah, now see, this is probably a great help to you! I like the idea of thinking of it in movie terms. :)

    Joylene,
    And hi to you as well! :) You are right, we are competing with a ton of distractions. Good point!

    Nas,
    You are welcome! What would we do without our CP's? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  25. Great post with great advice!
    I edit and edit and edit some more then send my work to critique partners and they usually tell me if I'm not getting the visualisation happening.

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  26. As you know, I only write nonfiction (although several close to me have squalled and cried 'it's fiction'). :D

    Anyway, people say they can see the scenes that I'm describing. Which makes me happy.

    I salute those of you who can write actual fiction, that's for sure.

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  27. Lynda,
    Thank you! What would we do without these critique partners?? :)

    Rhonda,
    Well, I think that your non fiction imagery is excellent, and all writers could learn a thing or two from you! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  28. I do use some vivid imagery in my books as I want to write it like the reader is watching a movie. Unfortunately, I do have to leave some out as I need to keep a fast pace. I have to pick and choose my spots wisely.

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  29. I struggle with writing vivid scenes. It's my least favorite part of writing and takes a fair amount of revising. Thanks for sharing your process.

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  30. Stephen,
    I think you're right, we need to entertain the reader, especially these days with media the way it is.

    Natalie,
    Me too. I am working on this area as we speak. Doing research too in my WIP's genre. Thanks for weighing in!

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  31. Hi Karen .. variety is the spice of life and keep our writing alive with interest ..

    But great post and ideas .. cheers Hilary

    PS love the photo .. autumn is really coming .. love the colours though ..

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  32. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for the shout out about the Goodreads giveaway for The Moses Conspiracy. 9/25 is the deadline.

    Jill Elizabeth Nelson's book on deep POV helped me a lot with showing rather than telling what the character was feeling.

    I'm a Seat-of-the-Pants writer, so the story part happens much like real life. Our lives can change in an instant, and my writing reflects this.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  33. Tight writing and careful wording all around--then see what the CPs say. Just because I see it in my head doesn't mean it's coming across on the page the same way.

    Great post! :)

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  34. There's definitely a disconnect sometimes between what writers see in our heads and what we're able to convey on the page. That's why setting a project aside and returning to it after a month or few is so necessary.

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  35. Susan,
    Glad to share your news! Looking forward to seeing who wins! :-)

    Hilary,
    Thank you! Yes autumn is starting to show its colors here!:-)

    Melissa,
    Yes you are right! :-) And whatever would we do Wityhout those CP's!

    Milo,
    I agree, letting it rest is key! :-)

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!