Hey everybody! Make sure you’ve got your tea and coffee somewhere close to your mouth hole because it’s time for another round of Meditative Monday.
Today’s topic was actually inspired by something that I’ve always wondered, but I always found extremely hard to understand.
It’s this idea of art that is “energetic” and then art that is more “rigid”. The best example of this would be to look at drawings done by people in Disney or people who work in animation and related film industries. Their drawings have a lot of energy, bounce, and exaggeration.
“Rigid” art tends to be less expressive, but that’s not to say that it’s not cool-looking or doesn’t have any appeal. Anime straddles this often, so does video game concept art, still life, and realism.
For a long time, I wondered what is that “energy” that it has. And since I bias my focus on writing a lot, I started to wonder, “well, can I somehow get that “energy” from animation and put that into my writing?” It’s something that I want in my writing really badly, so I’ve been trying really hard to break down what that “energy” look like?
And this is what I came up with:
There are writers who have it on a vivid level. Aka. Anthony Doerr, Donna Tartt, Aimee Bender, Rebecca Mc Clanahan. These are the folks that you read and feel like you just sponge up their entire world and feel every sensation because it’s described so well.
Then there are writers who have this “energy” on a character level. I feel JK Rowling, Octavia Butler, and George R.R. Martin fit here for very different reasons. George RR Martin and Octavia Butler for staying true to realism and grittiness of human nature. JK Rowling’s characters all have memorability, but many of them are memorable in a more caricaturish, cartoony way to me. And of course, the grand guest of honor that I feel I must put here, is Margaret Mitchell.
Next there are writers who have a energetic voices. Rick Riordan falls in this category. John Green does too. Johnny Truant also falls in this category. So does David Gaughran to me. I think this category is a biased towards people who write in first person because third person tends to be all about trying to sound more “neutral” and bookish. However, another thing I notice is that people who are more humorous and free in their writing tend to stick out more for this.
And finally there’s people who just have this energy for emotions and making you feel stuff. Octavia Butler goes here. JK Rowling goes here specifically for The Order of the Phoenix. Erin Hunter sits comfortably in this spot. Margaret Mitchell makes a return here. She might have to fight with Octavia Butler in Writing Heaven for top spot though.
Now you might be wondering how this has anything to do with being a weird kid or if you can snatch up any of this energy for your own writing. Don’t worry. I’m getting to that, but the two topics are braided together, so keep your eyes peeled.
1.) Word Choice
If you want to push your writing to be more energetic in the “vivid” sense, as I did, I found this is where I had to direct the bulk of my focus. And contrary to what you might think, this does not involve learning new words.
In fact, you don’t actually have to learn any to pull this off. Of course, you still should. New words always help with getting more specific details. And particularity makes the reader slow down to read your writing more carefully in a good way.
But realistically, to get more energy in this category, you only need to know how to use the words you already know in a more creative way.
Anthony Doerr is the king of doing this.
He’ll write about peaches slopping into a bowl. People crunching down to look at something instead just bending. Slop and crunch aren’t special words. But we’re so used to seeing them in overused contexts like crunchy cereal or sloppy clothes.
Because Doerr uses familiar words in new ways, it sets his typical WWII story worlds apart from all of the ones I’ve ever read.
And that’s not all. Sometimes he’ll twist the part of speech. Nouns suddenly become verbs. Verbs suddenly become nouns. Sometimes those verbs and nouns get stickied together to make fun and awkward new words to create just the sensation that the story needs.
That’s the joy of reading people with that sort of energy in their writing. There’s just so much new and exciting sensation that your mind just implodes on every page.
But enough about that. If I keep going, I might start drooling or something.
This sort of falls under word choice, but voiciness is different because you can pick all the right words and still sound about as unique as a brick in a wall. Doerr probably ain’t winning any awards for voice. His style is vivid off the charts, but you don’t really get the sense that a person is talking to you when you read his novels. Maybe in his memoir, but that’s a memoir.
Writers with strong voices make us feel like we’re talking to a unique person that you won’t find anywhere else, hence why third person has trouble here.
Second person, I feel can do fine here, but it’s a hard POV to pull off if you don’t know what you’re doing.
First person can have a field day here, but please don’t go deciding to write your novel in first person because you think it will give you easy voiciness.
Voice is a blend of what words are used (level of education), how those words are used, accents and regional dialects, if any, character background filters (occupations, hobbies, experiences, etc), and a person’s unique way of seeing the world.
First-person POV does none of that. All it does is give us the pronouns. Personally, I feel like a writer might as well pick third person if their character is going to speak standard English with no injection of that character’s personality.
If all that comes easy to you, you’re in a good place. This subject might deserve another tap another day, but for now, we move onward!
3.) Humor/ Willingness To Write Freely
I’m not sure what it is about humor that engages us, but it’s worth a mention alongside writing freely.
Something I notice about people who write humor is that they never hold back. It’s rarely ever a tiny “quiet” humor. It’s bold, it’s in your face, and it’s unapologetically free, weird and awkward.
I suppose that’s why it resonates with me personally because weird and awkward is me in a nutshell. I can’t get with the popular, everyone is doing it kind of mentality. I feel like I die a little bit inside every time I’ve ever try. I’ve never been that kid that “fits anywhere”. I’ve been more of the kid that’s always been ignored or marginalized to the side. There never seemed to be a place where I could, and even today, I still don’t really have a place like that. But I won’t really gripe about that, and if you’ve ever been that “that weird kid”, it’s not all bad.
Not having a “place”, I think, strengthened my writing a lot. Without lots of friends talking to me or outside influences dipping fingers in my work, my writing became what it’s supposed to be.
Now that being said, I admit none of this probably sounds very funny, but it does adhere to that writing freely part!
That’s something, ain’t it?
This one is hard guys. I’m sorry. 😦
But it is doable! If I can do it, so can you.
Getting good at emotions is half paying attention to yourself so that you can feel and label the sensations associated with your feelings, and half paying attention to others for physical reactions.
I have the blessing and curse of being a maladaptive daydreamer, which pretty much daydreaming, but with a catch.
I sometimes do it out loud and too much.
So you can imagine what a pain it can be to daydream when you don’t mean to, in places that you don’t mean to, and when you desperately need to get something done. And for a while, I thought that the best thing to do was stop it and just try to be a normal functioning human being.
And boy was I wrong.
Because one, trying to stop it made it exponentially worse, and two it was actually making my writing better!
Think about it, if you need to write a scene where there are really strong emotions, it’s a much bigger pain to write that scene when you’re feeling completely relaxed. But because I’d often daydream the scene that was going on out loud, I’d just generate the emotions automatically and have an immediate reference for sensations, faces, body language, and dialogue.
Doesn’t really solve the problem about daydreaming when I shouldn’t, but hey, I’d rather be a little weird and good at writing than not weird and terrible at it. I’ve been thinking of taking up improv or amateur acting or something so at least I can put it to good use.
You may not feel the same about whatever makes you weird, but I’m of the mind that there’s gotta be at least one thing useful about our weirdness.
And even more so, weirdness is always useful for writing!