Thursday, May 6, 2010

Giving Sight to the Blind

Okay, I know, that title probably makes this post sound a LOT more noble than it really is, but...I had to use it because I had an epiphany!

Well...maybe epiphany is too strong of a word...

A revelation? 

No, that's crap too. 

Fine...we'll go with epiphany--for lack of a better word.

Anyway--so--I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out why writing is So. Darn. Hard. sometimes (you know...when I probably should've been using the time to write. *shrugs*) And I think I've figured it out--or part of it at least.

Think of it this way. What would you say if a blind person asked you to describe the color blue? Tricky question, huh? Because how would you possibly convey an abstract concept like "color" to someone who's never seen anything?

It's kinda the same thing with writing!

Our readers are totally blind when it comes to our stories. We're trying to explain people, locations, events, and feelings that exist only in our heads.  And sometimes what we're trying to explain can be as foreign and abstract and impossible as explaining the color blue to a blind person.

So what do we do?

We stretch ourselves.

If we were trying to explain blue to a blind person, maybe we'd hand them an ice cube and tell them that blue is cool like that. Or maybe we'd dip their fingers in water and say that some blues feel like that. Or we'd take them outside and say that blue is like fresh air. None of that actually tells them what blue looks like--but it gives them a sense of it, no matter how vague.

It's the same thing with our stories. A well crafted metaphor. Carefully constructed dialogue. Artful descriptions. Well chosen words. If we push ourselves hard enough, we can make our readers see our stories just as clearly as we do. We can give sight to the blind. It's crazy hard to do. But it's the brass ring we're all striving for.

It's what makes writing so amazingly hard and frustrating. But it's also what keeps the pretenders away. Remember, if writing were easy, EVERYONE would do it, and there'd be so much competition we'd never have a chance to make it. So yeah, it's hard, and annoying, and sometimes we feel like there literally aren't any words that exist to explain what we're trying to say. But they do exist. We just have to push ourselves to find them.

So with that in mind, I'd love some pointers.

How do you guys give sight to your readers?


  1. What a lovely metaphor, and so true.

    Personally I try to relate to things that people can understand universally - like emotions, or simple little things that nearly everyone goes through.

    Of course that makes it sound much easier than it is.

  2. Currently, I'm trying to describe events as if they are completely normal, because that's how my narrator perceives them.

  3. I just write what I see. It doesn't always work, but then I think about my scene harder and harder* until the blur goes away around the edges and I know what to do.

    *This has a 12% success rate, so I am curious to see what others have to say.

  4. I write what I feel, what I see, and how I imagine it could be. (did not mean to rhyme ;o))

    Love this post Shannon! ;o)

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  5. Ooh, nice ways to describe blue, Shannon. I'm so excited for you and your revisions. And yes, you're right. If writing was easy every would do it.

  6. I struggle with this, too. When I look at the writing of others I almost always have the comment: find a new and interesting way to describe this to me. Now I just need to figure out how to do that myself :). Cliches are so easy because they evoke the same response in everyone, but they make my writing feel flat. It's almost like they want us to work hard at this if we're going to get paid...inconvenient.

  7. I come to writing from an amotional POV - what does it FEEL like to interact with the world. That is the place I write from! And yeah - writing really is THAT hard!

  8. I like it. I wish I had some great advice, but I'm still learning so much. I usually try to feel it myself and go from there. But editing and editing and editing seems to help. :)

  9. This is such an awesome post Shannon. Because it's so true. You made me think about things at such a deeper level than I usually do =)

  10. Excellent post, Shannon! Your metaphor is perfect. It's so hard explaining the writing process. Maybe I'll just dump a bucket of cool water over the next person's head who asks me about my writing.

    Oh, wait, that's how you said you'd describe blue. Except much less vigorously. :)

  11. Sorry to be a parrot, but that IS an awesomely accurate metaphor.

    I'm a detail whore. I like to add little pieces of description all over the place, because I think they help readers visualize much better than "She is blond and blue eyed with a slim waist" kind of deals. I do have a tendency to ramble, though, but I'm working on it. :)

  12. That, is, awesome. I could never put into words, or even some-what logical thoughts, why writing was so hard.


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