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In the book Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark reminds us when writing to show the point. So a man is puffing on a cigarette… do we know he’s dying of cancer? A woman is walking an old, lame dog… do we know it was her recently deceased husband’s dog? Are we let into her feelings of sorrow, the smell of the smoke, and pained limp of the pooch? How do we use our senses to help the reader see the point? How do we, in our writing, remember the details?
When we look to observe, to really see… we cannot only focus on the visual. We need to cover all the senses and allow our curiousity to help us suss out the important details.
Mr. Clark pointed out the story of a lady who had a light switch taped over. A curious reporter noted it and learned the family had the tradition of leaving the light on until everyone came home. One day, one of the children never came home. Murdered. A grief that endures. Without noticing the switch, without the curiousity to ask the question, would we ever have learned the point?
As writers, we need to lead our readers to the point. To help them, through our words the evoke our senses and our feelings, to the true point.
I could tell you, as a rabbit owner, the importance of maintaining your wooled rabbits coat. I could stress how important it is to keep the coat mat free. But unless I tell you of the rescued rabbit that I took in, that had this look of fright and hurt in it’s eyes. Of my search to find the reason, and discovering a huge mat in it’s coat. The struggle to remove it, of a frightened animal’s struggle, and then seeing the partially healing tear in its skin. The horror of that moment, the sudden deep realization that I would NEVER deliberately breed a wooled animal. When people understand that pain and hurt to a harmless animal… it makes the point more clearly than simple factual language.
Cultivate This Skill
When you write, look for opportunities to evoke all the senses… add details for smell, sound, taste and touch.
Look at the art you find around you. Notice the details, consider what sounds you might hear, or the smells the would waft through the air and so forth. Think, consider, and add those details.
Notice the little things, learn the name of the dog that died in the fire, discover the favourite activity of that lost child, the talent not always seen
Some excellent writing resources can be found at schoolhouseteachers.com. Read on to learn more. 🙂
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