A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story is not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan

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The First Sentence: Setting the Stage

It always begins with the first sentence—this opening line is of utmost importance to a novel, for it sets the stage for the entire book. The initial impact is vital in order to tantalize the reader into staying for the entire chapter. At this point, details are not important. A question must be posed, confusion instigated, an air of mystery, or some item of fancy that leads the audience to want to know more.first-lines

I find it interesting to look into the first sentence of different books. Of course there are some pretty famous first lines:

  • Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  • I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

It is a tricky business writing that first line. Many a writer sit dumbfounded with that blank page starring coldly at them, unable to pen those allusive opening words. The trick is to just start. Write something down—anything. Once the story unfolds, then go back and rework that opening line.

This sentence is the beginning of a relationship you hope to build with your audience. Work it, rework it, until you give the reader a line that says, “Come and stay awhile; I am worth your time.”

Yet more can be revealed within those first few words than may be initially evident. There is value in examining on a deeper level.

What does the first sentence of my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, tell the reader?

Let’s take a look:

The sun stood at its full height over the once lush valley, laid to ruin by the ravages of war, now a barren wasteland littered with corpses and blood-soaked earth.

What do you see? What do you feel?

If you look deeply into the folds of this sentence, you find a field of contrasts:

light—dark                 lush—ruin

warm—cold                 life—death

Now look further; where does the story begin?

The first sentence starts in the middle of the action. So we ask, what has happened to lead to this event?

And as you read further, it is evident that a deep history resides prior to the opening of this novel. The first sentence may begin your book, but it is not the start of your story. Your reader has entered the novel at this point, but does not yet know how they got to this place in time.

This opening line provides the reader with not only what has already occurred,

(the sun stood at its full height over the once lush valley)

but with a crisis that has changed the scene; life has grown barren and cold

(laid to ruin by the ravages of war, now a barren wasteland littered with corpses and blood-soaked earth).

Hope and beauty, barrenness and despair—all within the same plain.

Opening lines can be complex or a few well-placed words that open a floodgate of questions. So here is your opportunity to tantalize us with your first lines.

In the comments below, share the first sentence of your latest book. Let us see what can be revealed within the opening lines of your story.

 

~ Susan

 

 

 

The Seduction of Words ~

I was thinking today about the vocabulary, or the loss there of, within the English language. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry that words are simply discarded. Even the SAT vocabulary list has been “dumbed down.” It saddens me to think how lightly we hold words. Without words, how would we express ourselves, tell a story, or give instruction? It is hard to estimate how many words are available for our use, but it is clear that the average person speaks only a small percentage. Although Shakespeare made use of the vast vocabulary at hand, he found that there were not enough words for his taste. So he coined new words, somewhere around 1700, such as eyeball, mountaineer, bedroom, and of course puking, green-eyed monster!

Words are descriptive, specific, and waiting to be used.

You do not have to be a erudite, or a philologist, to appreciate a broad vocabulary.

Words are available for everyone. Each word has a unique meaning: some general, and some, are very specific. These are the words that make the difference between good enough writing and great literature.

In light of that last statement, I would like to share the following post from an earlier entry, for words are my passion. As an author, how words are put together in a sentence is as important as what words are engaged in telling a tale. Here is insight into my use of words….

~~~~~

Words, words, words… I have a love affair with words. I am a word collector. I even keep a leather bound word journal. When I am reading, I will stop as I come across a word or a phrase that I especially enjoy. I will pause, turn around and go back, rereading the words slowly as I mull them over in my mouth, feeling the texture of the words as I express them audibly. Then, so as not to forget the sensual experience of these beautifully crafted words, I carefully write them in my journal, noting where I gathered them so that forever I can return to experience their pleasure once again.

As a writer, I often have vivid scenarios that play out within my mind, so real and detailed that I actually view myself within the scene, watching intently as the action unfolds before my eyes. The question is how I, as a writer, relay to the reader the striking images of my vision. I find that authors often miss out on great opportunities to fully express their imaginative conceptions. They assume that the reader sees what they perceive. But if one is not careful, details are missed as the author fails to deliver an adequate description of all that is within the folds of their mind.

We must never assume that the reader can see into our thoughts. Words are the key. It is said, the genius is in the detail. Nothing should be left unsaid. As I view a scene within my mind’s eye, I look all around and ask myself:  what do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? Then I painstakingly transcribe each detail into information for my audience, written in just the right way so that they can be caught up into the action with me. I say painstaking; for that is the way it is for me when I write. I have spent two weeks writing one paragraph, thinking, ingesting, researching, for just the right words so that the images flow as a leaf upon a fair breeze. I do not just tell the reader what I see, or hear, or smell. The way I write, the words I choose, the order in which I place the words, are just as important as what I write.

Below is an example. I could say this…

~~~

Nagad stood upon the rise, looking over the land before him. The rolling hills were covered with flowers that waved in the breeze. The morning air was fresh and new, bringing to mind visions from the past.

Or I could say …

Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

~excerpt from The Stone of Ebenezer, Trilogy of Kings

~~~

So you see, how a scene is written is so much more than the delivery of information. Not only do I want to describe my characters, my scenes, I want them to come to life, to jump off the page. I desire my reader to have a visceral reaction to all that is transpiring within the words on the page. They should experience the story as a member of the action, not a passive observer, but an integral part of the story. The narrative should flow off the page without difficulty. The story line should be easy to follow; the burden of the saga should be on the author, and not the reader.

So then, go forth and read. But not only read, study how the words are composed. What makes the author’s words come alive?

~Susan

A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story in not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan

The Seduction of Words ~

Words, words, words… I have a love affair with words. I am a word collector. I even keep a leather bound word journal. When I am reading, I will stop as I come across a word or a phrase that I especially enjoy. I will pause, turn around and go back, rereading the words slowly as I mull them over in my mouth, feeling the texture of the words as I express them audibly. Then, so as not to forget the sensual experience of these beautifully crafted words, I carefully write them in my journal, noting where I gathered them so that forever I can return to experience their pleasure once again.

As a writer, I often have vivid scenarios that play out within my mind, so real and detailed that I actually view myself within the scene, watching intently as the action unfolds before my eyes. The question is how I, as a writer, relay to the reader the striking images of my vision. I find that authors often miss out on great opportunities to fully express their imaginative conceptions. They assume that the reader sees what they perceive. But if one is not careful, details are missed as the author fails to deliver an adequate description of all that is within the folds of their mind.

We must never assume that the reader can see into our thoughts. Words are the key. It is said, the genius is in the detail. Nothing should be left unsaid. As I view a scene within my mind’s eye, I look all around and ask myself:  what do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? Then I painstakingly transcribe each detail into information for my audience, written in just the right way so that they can be caught up into the action with me. I say painstaking; for that is the way it is for me when I write. I have spent two weeks writing one paragraph, thinking, ingesting, researching, for just the right words so that the images flow as a leaf upon a fair breeze. I do not just tell the reader what I see, or hear, or smell. The way I write, the words I choose, the order in which I place the words, are just as important as what I write.

Below is an example. I could say this…

~~~

Nagad stood upon the rise, looking over the land before him. The rolling hills were covered with flowers that waved in the breeze. The morning air was fresh and new, bringing to mind visions from the past.

Or I could say …

Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

~excerpt from The Stone of Ebenezer, Trilogy of Kings

~~~

So you see, how a scene is written is so much more than the delivery of information. Not only do I want to describe my characters, my scenes, I want them to come to life, to jump off the page. I desire my reader to have a visceral reaction to all that is transpiring within the words on the page. They should experience the story as a member of the action, not a passive observer, but an integral part of the story. The narrative should flow off the page without difficulty. The story line should be easy to follow; the burden of the saga should be on the author, and not the reader.

So then, go forth and read. But not only read, study how the words are composed. What makes the author’s words come alive?

~Susan

A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.” 

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story in not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.  

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan