Lanie over at Laniepainie tagged me for this meme:
*Link back to the person who tagged you. (Check!)
*List three things that you believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful. (Check!)
*Tag five others and comment at their blog informing them that they’ve been tagged with this meme. (AW! Do I HAFTA!? I hate tagging, so feel free to boost this if you want. Comment here to let us know you did it, and we’ll all come over and read your answers.)
So, three things that I think make for good and powerful writing…..
1. Investment. Something that I tell all my students, regardless of which of my classes they’re sitting in, is that if they don’t care about what they’re writing about, neither will anyone else. The writer has to have some investment in what he or she is writing or the words will come off as flat and lifeless. I tell my students that they don’t always have to know what they’re going to end up saying when it’s all said and done, but they have to care enough about the process and all that it encompasses- the topic, the language, the construction – to make us care about it, too.
2. A willingness to take chances. Some of the best writing I’ve done has come as a result of my tossing myself in a direction I wasn’t sure would actually work, but I went there, anyway. An example is the fact that the paper from college of which I am most proud was also the scariest to turn in: I was in a literary criticism class and we were investigating Josef Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I wrote a piece in which I used a scholarly article AND an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to deconstruct Kurtz’s behavior and the attitude of the natives toward him. I thought, at the time, that I was taking a huge risk by pulling fluffy pop-culture into a serious class with a serious book, but I believed in the connections I was making and I was excited that I could make them. My professor agreed; so much so that she asked if she could copy my paper to show her other students that one of the points of studying literature is to find those connections in their own lives – much like I did that Saturday night while watching a science fiction television show.
3. A love of language. The writing I remember best is the writing generated by people who love language: Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, Richard Bach, Tolkein, Mary Shelley, and many, many others who hold certain images in their minds and are skillful enough with words to make sure that WE see those images, too.
I very clearly remember reading a passage from Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour about 20 or so years ago. She described the house that the story takes place in so vividly that I could actually see it in my mind. About five or so years after I read that book, I was watching an A&E special, or some such, about Anne Rice and New Orleans, where the author lives and where most of her books are set. At one point, there was a picture of the main hall and staircase of an old French Quarter mansion, and I nearly fell over. “THAT’S the Witching Hour house!” I thought to myself, a beat and a half before the narrator told us that this particular house was used as the backdrop for that story. Ms. Rice was able to use the words at her disposal to make me see EXACTLY what she saw, and it’s an experience that’s never left me.
There are a bunch of other things that I believe make for good and powerful writing, but I’ve been asked to limit it to three. If you want to chime in, please do! If you want to do this little exercise on YOUR blog, leave a comment here and we’ll come on over and read what you think makes good writing good.