Writing tip Wednesday: “Watch you language”

Why Your Story is Getting Rejected: Language

by Chelsea Henshey

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/uncategorized/why-your-story-is-getting-rejected-language?platform=hootsuite

Getting to the heart of the matter.

Getting to the heart of the matter.

As a former reader for a literary journal, I first learned to watch for language. I looked for creative, rhythmic prose that engaged the senses and provided a clear voice. But it took time to recognize and appreciate these qualities, and even longer to apply them in my own work.

Now, as an editor, writer, and reader, I’m constantly on the lookout for crafted prose that’s evident from paragraph one. Crafted prose means the writer isn’t simply moving characters from point A to point B, but arranging images and syntax to create rhythm and evoke emotion.

While all levels of a story must be effective for publication, stilted language can stop an editor in her tracks before your plot even begins. To refine your own language, remember the following tips:

Choose Your Style

When I use the term style, I’m referring to minimalist, maximalist, or somewhere in between. Notice the difference between the passages from Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God.

This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-law’s. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago.

They came like a caravan of carnival folk up through the swales of broomstraw and across the hill in the morning sun, the truck rocking and pitching the ruts and the musicians on the chairs in the truckbed teetering and tuning their instruments, the fat man with guitar grinning and gesturing to others in a car behind and bending to give a note to the fiddler who turned a fiddlepeg and listened with a wrinkled face.

Much of your style has to do with instinct. Do you cringe at the thought of sprawling descriptions, or could you describe a scene for pages? Whatever you choose, stay consistent. Don’t be minimalist on page one and switch to a maximalist style on page three.

Avoid Abstraction

Many writers rely on abstractions in their descriptions. The issue with abstractions is they do not ground your reader. When you say something is beautiful, hideous, terrible, amazing, etc. it doesn’t provide a concrete image the reader can see. Instead, abstractions remain different for everyone, with one person’s view of beauty drastically different from the author’s. If you don’t explain what beautiful looks like, your reader is lost, and your description has no effect.
Avoid Abstraction

Many writers rely on abstractions in their descriptions. The issue with abstractions is they do not ground your reader. When you say something is beautiful, hideous, terrible, amazing, etc. it doesn’t provide a concrete image the reader can see. Instead, abstractions remain different for everyone, with one person’s view of beauty drastically different from the author’s. If you don’t explain what beautiful looks like, your reader is lost, and your description has no effect.

Be Creative

When you meet a new person, how do you describe him to someone else? Do you say he’s 6-feet tall with blue eyes, brown hair, and a beard, or are you more likely to explain unique things about him? The same goes for setting. Are the mountains tall? Is the sky blue? Does the dining room have a table? As you write, move beyond the obvious and into the memorable.

But Watch for Runaway Similes and Metaphors

Runaway similes and metaphors are tricky. I can see the writer has good intentions, but the image has backfired. These comparisons are so unrelated, they depart from what they’re describing. For example, if you compare your character stretching his legs out to unrolling a sleeping bag, notice what happens: You’re going to jump to the sleeping bag and leave the character behind. I’ve written many metaphors like this in the past, and it usually takes a trusted reader to point them out. If you’re feeling particularly proud of an out-of-the-box image, use caution, and test it on a reader.

Other things to consider:

Listen to your writing

Eliminate Repetition

Proofread

Rest of the article: http://www.writersdigest.com/uncategorized/why-your-story-is-getting-rejected-language?platform=hootsuite

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Filed under 2016, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

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