I often catch myself wanting to start posts with lines everybody’s heard before, or simply lines that don’t make sense in context because it just seems to fit the beginning of a paragraph on that certain subject.
I’ll give an example.
When I’m stuck writing a scene for a personal project, my mind whirrs. I stare at the flashing cursor and the half-filled page, hit enter. And instead of continuing the story like my mind wants to, I experience a brain burp and I nearly type, “My name is…”
It’s a holdover from reading too many fiction books where the characters all get introduced the same way by the author, where plot is favored over characterization.
If you’re a beginner writer, (and you don’t have to take my advice) just so you know, both are important. You may have a fast-paced sci-fi thriller, so maybe characters’ names aren’t as crucial, and plot plays a more significant role, becoming itself a person to relate to. But flip that to slow-burn Seelie/Unseelie court romance, and characters’ thoughts and motives just may become absolutely necessary as that kind of point.
But like I said, both character and plot are ingredients that when mixed into a story, equal a major part of the flavor. There are other little details that often get overlooked, and that’s what makes the craft of writing so difficult to master. However, I believe deftly weaving these two things will get you well on your way to that status of top chef.
One thing I really wanted to discuss, more than the threading of plot and character, is how I change my writing style based on whom I’m speaking with. This is a well documented phenomenon, where people from various cultures, countries, and linguistic backgrounds have colloquialisms and levels of formality they use to express themselves when chatting up others.
I’m a very formal writer, even in texting my family.
Where it all falls apart is in speaking.
I’m still struggling to find purchase on the rocky cliffs of self-expression and register in English. You’d think I’d have it mastered by now as I’m a native speaker, but I don’t.
This is why some people hold the view that it takes a lifetime to fully understand a language, even one’s own. And I agree with that assessment.
You might say I’m just picky, persnickety, or pedantic. (Or any other P-word.) But I take pride in honing my skills as an orator and writer, and as I’ve written on this blog before, linguistic intelligence my brand and the means through which I see the world. Therefore, I can’t merely let it go when my writing is not up to par.
So that means when I’m stuttering or searching for words as I speak, or I have a brain burp and begin typing nonsense, I really start to wonder if I have any merit to me at all. And maybe I don’t have any, really. I’ve probably built myself up too high all these years.
I still want to think that I have some kind of gift bestowed upon me (albeit one I’ve had to apply hard work toward). I’m not a big believer in God at this time, though I do believe in higher powers. And I believe I was born to write, to express, to rend people’s hearts asunder from little letters on a screen and/or page.
That’s a tall order, which means I have a long way to go. But more importantly, it means that I have to accept myself as a writer halved. I speak like a teenager, but write more like a college professor at times.
And one day, you may just be reading some writing by me and be pulled off that cliff and into heavenly bliss.
Featured image by Emilie CRƧƧRD.