LESSON Workshop: Writing Fluidly

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Revision, May 11, 2012.

  1. Writing style is a matter of taste. That simple fact is a cornerstone of writing. However, there are many things that can make reading more enjoyable for your audience. Whether it is learning how to vary the beginnings of your sentences or employing a touch of poetry in your prose, you will find that these simple touches can help your writing evolve from simple storytelling to epic wordcraft.

    Writing fluidly is achieved in part by practice but also by knowing what rules to bend, break, and employ. When you realize that not every character description needs to begin with a pronoun and not every sentence needs to sacrifice beauty for stark function, you can begin to make something that flows off the tongue instead of staggers from your lips.

    There is a contrast between how you type in conversation and the amazing variety you can utilize when crafting a scene. Aside from varying words (the subject of one of the exercises in this group), writers may also vary sentence complexity. Some sentences are simple. Some gain a level of complexity, drawing in the imagination. Writing such sentences can seem unnatural at first, for the human tendency is to convey imagery concisely. However, when you begin to establish a flow, an almost musical rhythm begins to drive the words and it will then seem more difficult to deviate from the heartbeat that is simple, complex, and compound.

    If you have trouble with this concept, think of words as music. Short, simple sentences strung together have a very staccato feel, while more complicated sentences and flowery words are legato. (For those who do not know, staccato means short and sharp, legato means smooth and flowing without breaks.) Depending on what tone you want, you may vary the structure used. Urgent events may call for staccato, the feeling of a racing heartbeat. Then, you would either use several simple sentences or many simple phrases linked in a series. At other times, you may want a more flowing, gentle feeling. This is often enchanting and mesmerizing, bringing feelings of being wrapped in the words themselves. However, most works call for a mix of staccato and legato, and writing is no different.

    As you begin to write more, you will realize that some sentences defy the above guidelines. I’m sure you’ve noticed a few in this workshop. Some simple sentences flow softly. Some more complicated sentences deliver sharp meaning that cannot be defied. This is as much because of a choice of words as it is because of sentence structure, and thus you must learn what words flow well together. Alliteration, internal rhyme, and tricks of balance will help you develop a much more musical method of perfecting prose.

    At the same time, remember that overdoing it and creating something that is more floral than substantial can have the opposite effect than desired. Readers will find themselves having to consult a thesaurus or dictionary every few lines and you may find that you’ve inadvertently used a synonym wrong or created a turn of phrase that, while original, is utterly humorous for all the wrong reasons. Fluid writing takes a good deal of practice, and true masters never stop honing their art.

    Exercise:
    Take a recent paragraph you’ve written and attempt to rewrite it with a more natural, musical flow. This does not mean to turn it into poetry or music, simply to breathe a bit of rhythmic life into it. Give it a try! I’d love to see the before and after.
     
  2. Before:

    (I feel that this piece is too focused on being "flowery" than "flowing" so I want to trim down some of the over the top things while making sure the important parts stand out.)


    Addy Salizar
    Cirque de Sueños


    The smell of caramel apples and cotton candy wafted through the air, tickling the noses of the inhabitants. Uncanny strings of music played on repeat as popping balloons and the metal clink of horseshoes competed to be heard. Addy inhaled the feeling of sugar buzzed children and adults emerging back into childhood, as a smile danced across her lips. These were the energies that drew her to carnivals. She purchased some roasted peanuts and walked lazily through the rows of booths, chewing contentedly to the rhythm of her steps.

    She approached the ferris wheel conductor and, with a familiar smile, produced two tickets from her pocket.

    "Aye lassie, when are ye goin' ta stop buying tickets an' realize da' you belong with us?" An old Irish man with an unkempt beard beamed at her as he refused to take her tickets.

    "Thanks O'Reilly..." she hummed as she slid into the ferris wheel bench. O'Reilly only shook his head with a smile.

    "Extra time at the top it is then..." he responded.

    As her compartment ascended among the stars she thought about the things she only allowed herself to think about on ferris wheel rides. Thoughts of her mother flooded her mind. It had been one year since Addy had run away. How was her mother holding up? No doubt she had dealt with Addy's disappearance the same way she had dealt with life up until Addy left; with boos and strange overnight guests. Addy shook her head sorrowfully. It was her choice, it's not your fault. She tried to remind herself. Then her mind shifted to a more present matter. Addy had finally used up the last of her savings and was on her last tank of gas.

    Earlier that day she had seen a help wanted poster for the Cirque de Sueños, the current carnival she was following. The idea had enthralled her but frightened her at the same time. She wanted the job so badly, but who would hire a 16-year-old run away? What if they called the police and Addy was returned home to her mother, or worse - her father? Before she knew it O'Reilly was lifting up the lap bar and telling her to come back anytime.

    Addy walked the carnival grounds, wandering aimlessly while being caught up in her thoughts. She was brought back to reality when she felt her shoulder bump against something. She looked up only to realize that it wasn't a something but a someone.


    After:


    Addy Salizar
    Cirque de Sueños

    The smell of caramel apples and cotton candy wafted through the air, tickling the noses of the
    circus-goers. Uncanny strings of music played on repeat as popping balloons and the metal clink of horseshoes competed to be heard. Addy inhaled deeply. The feeling of sugar buzzed children and adults emerging back into childhood caused a smile to dance across her lips. These were the energies that drew her to carnivals. She purchased some roasted peanuts and walked lazily through the rows of booths.

    She approached the ferris wheel conductor and, with a familiar smile, produced two tickets from her pocket.

    "Aye lassie, when are ye goin' ta stop buying tickets an' realize da' you belong with us?" An old Irish man with an unkempt beard beamed at her and refused to take her tickets.

    "Thanks O'Reilly..." she hummed as she slid into the ferris wheel bench. The old man only
    shook his head with a grin.

    As her compartment ascended among the stars
    , she thought about the things she only allowed herself to think about on ferris wheel rides. Thoughts of her mother flooded her mind. It had been one year since Addy had run away and she wondered how her mother was holding up. No doubt she had dealt with Addy's disappearance the same way she had dealt with life up until Addy left; with boos and strange overnight guests. Addy shook her head sorrowfully. It was her choice, it's not your fault. She reminded herself. Then her thoughts shifted to a more present matter. Addy had finally used up her savings and was nearing the bottom of her last tank of gas.

    Earlier that day she had noticed a help wanted poster for the Cirque de Sueños, the current carnival she was following. The idea had
    enthralled and frightened her at the same time. Who would hire a 16-year-old run away? She thought. What if they called the police and return me home to my mother, or worse, my father? Before she knew it O'Reilly was lifting up the lap bar and telling her to come back anytime.

    Addy walked the carnival grounds, wandering aimlessly while being caught up in her thoughts. She was brought back to reality when she felt her shoulder bump against something. She looked up
    , only to realize that it wasn't a something but a someone.