I spent a good part of the morning at the museum, preparing for a tour on Friday for 4th graders. The feature exhibit is Chester Arnold, a contemporary California environmental artist. In the center of the gallery is a display of the tools Arnold uses to create his work: palettes, oils, brushes–all the implements of painters. I like to ask the children what kind of tools artists use. When they’ve replied as expected, I take it a step further and discuss the elements and principles of art such as color, line, shape, texture… As I was thinking about my tour strategy, the thought came to mind that, as writers, we employ some of these same tools to give depth, perspective, unity and beauty to our art. Here are a few (only a few) to consider:
- Balance–how do you achieve balance in writing? In fiction, it’s important to consider variations of moods, pacing, narrative and dialogue. For example, if you are writing a thriller, give the reader a chance to catch his breath now and again. This can be done by using pacing techniques. Ramp up the intensity by using short sentences, fast-paced action then ease up and throw in a little scene of description or reflection. Balance dialogue with narrative. Too much of either overwhelms (or underwhelms.)
- Color–yes, color. Bring color into descriptions but also into character. When I wrote the first draft of my first novel all the characters resembled one another and they were boring (probably because they were all like me!) Give those people inhabiting your pages flaws, tics, obsessions, cultural variations–whatever it takes to distinguish them one from another. I find it helpful to think of people I know and to use the Myers-Briggs when developing personalities. (You may want to refer to my previous post on Myers-Briggs).
- Perspective. Add depth to your characters and story by subtly including background reference. This can be done by careful inclusion of flashbacks or in the course of conversations. Be careful not to take the reader out of the story, though. Another way to add perspective is by judicious use of point of view. Many writers advise staying in a single viewpoint. If that suits you, be sure to choose the character and the person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) that best suits your story. I like to shift points of view, usually keeping it to two or three maximum, with the protagonist maintaining center stage. If you do choose multiple points of view, be careful to differentiate by chapter or scene changes. Don’t confuse the reader.
I could go on and on, using the tools of art as a metaphor for writing, and perhaps I will in another post. I hope these considerations are helpful to you. I invite you to think about how they can be applied to poetry as well as fiction.
Myers-Briggs Post: https://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/character-development/