Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A reader doesn’t create or follow just any path in your writing, except for maybe a path of disbelief. The reader sprints, trudges, or aimlessly wanders along the journey created by you as a good writer. If the job’s done well, the reader doesn’t get lost. That includes fiction where a major purpose of the writer’s task is to build suspense, throw in a red herring, or tilt the reader’s sense of balance.
Prose that is loose and unstructured loses the reader while also indicating that the writer lacks a coherent idea of where he or she is headed.
Two writing concepts, never quite like identical twins, worthy of consideration are “unity” and “flow.”
“Unity” is a coherent journey that more likely than not takes the reader back to the beginning in either time, space, thought, or location. “Flow” is pacing and markers along the reader’s journey that keeps he or she moving forward to the next page, the newest thought built on or created out of a previous thought, or the revelation of an underlying theme.
While Tarzan swung from vine to vine, he had to keep looking forward to determine if the next jungle tree was strong enough to hold his weight and provided a new vine able to swing in the direction he wished to travel. Each tree or vine could be a different native species. It didn’t matter. Writing instructors often use the analogy of a flagstone path. Each stone is of different dimension and/or shape, yet together they “flow” in a direction that can be discerned and followed.
“Unity” is to make each tree or stone suggestive of the journey and provide for its accomplishment. Linkage is how you, as the writer, arrange and order the individual pieces. You as writer keep adding new things: Tarzan meets Jane. Tarzan reaches for a coconut. Tarzan avoids the swipe of a lion’s paw. You’re building Tarzan’s life. Giving the reader perspective and insight into Tarzan’s existence.
While Tarzan grows wiser, he ages. The sun dips below the horizon and dawn breaks to provide transition between days. A scrape on Tarzan’s leg first bleeds, the blood coagulates into a clot followed by a covering, protective scab, and then the scab dries up and disappears in the healing process. Life events are given and blended together with the transition of a healing wound.
But be on guard for tried-and-true words and phrases that may be convenient, but should be avoided. Example: “After having …” Having means the action has already taken place. The writer has indicated he or she is writing about the past. You would not say” “After having looked around the forest, Tarzan eyed a cypress.” Redundancy abounds. Use either “after” or “having.” “After looking around the forest, Tarzan eyed a cypress.” Or, “Having looked around the forest, Tarzan eyed a cypress.”
The reader takes in that Tarzan swings from a cypress to an oak and then to a palm tree. He finds the coconuts ripe, unlike two months previous. Thus, a single action ties together Tarzan’s journey and experience. There is both flow and unity. The logic is implicit and the writer keeps the reader on the single journey.
Step back from your writing and check it for unity and flow. Give yourself a mental pat on the back for doing a good job.
Author Donan Berg's e-book "Abbey Burning Love" is now 99 cents. Visit www.dotdonbooks.com to learn more and order. He is author of three other novels in print and e-book formats.