Monday, December 12, 2011

Enlivening your prose

Writing is Rewriting.

Say you’ve written a good story and its structure works. But the writing in your first draft seems flat. How do you put more life into your telling of the tale?

The trick is not to come up with more colorful adjectives or explanatory adverbs!

Here’s what you must do:
  • Cut flab and echoes. (“Omit needless words. Make every word tell.”)
  • Convert passive to active sentences.
  • Replace weak verbs with potent verbs.
  • Replace generic nouns with precise nouns.

A painting of a black Jesus with dreadlocks hid the hole where Tracy had punched her fist through the wall.

Jackson Pollock-like blobs of pigeon shit crusted the park bench.

He shambled lopsided, like he’d been broken and duct-taped together in a hurry.

A broken nose and chipped front teeth do not make a pretty face. Usually.

The room stank like burning hair, my gut refused to let my legs carry me inside.

Cigarette burns on the piano picketed the unused ashtray.

The Volkswagen-sized room had one window, so dirty you could barely see the neon lights.

A candy store stood on the corner of the street in the Bronx neighborhood where I grew up. A murder happened there when I was eight. Supposedly, I saw the whole thing and told the police all about it, but I don’t remember the details anymore, just the blood and flecks of brain.

She reminds me of a cat I once had. It would sit in your lap and purr until you gave it what it wanted, then it wouldn’t have anything to do with you until it was hungry again.

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