Three-quarters of my family is in a cleaning mood at the moment, and as it’s Christmas break, that often means attacking the piles (physical or metaphorical) of things that have been hanging around all semester waiting for me to get to them. Mostly I only accomplish the doubtful progression of moving portions of the mess to other locations.
In the process, I pulled out some writer’s magazines that were handed out in the Craft and Theory: Prose and Poetry class I had. I read through them to see if I needed anything in them, jotted down a few ideas, and then threw them away, because they really weren’t that good. One of the flaws of a secular college is that nobody works off the proper presuppositions, so quite often they end up with the wrong conclusions (especially when you’re talking about art), or they might get the right conclusion, but the way they got to it is all wrong.
In no particular order, here are the worthwhile ideas I gathered from the three magazines:
The setting can be used to help the mood of a scene, subtly dropping hints when characters aren’t supposed to notice foreshadowing.
Playing is not wasted time. You can’t spend all your time writing, because your creativity will dry up. Writers know that anything can provide ideas, from a stray word to a picture to music to just going for a walk and feeling things with their five senses. Time spent not writing isn’t wasted time, it’s necessary, and though for ordinary jobs it’s true that time spent away is time not working, and therefore, from the point of view of usefulness, wasted time, that’s not so for writers. Or for any artists, I suspect.
The style of the writing, word choice, voice, syntax, sentence length, and the like, should reflect the content. Trying to write a tense scene and using long, sprawling, rambling sentences is going to be self-defeating. Trying to write from the point of view of an uneducated man doesn’t work if he notices things only a professor would look for, or uses words the average reader will have to look up in the dictionary. A bricklayer probably won’t be too interested in a collection of incunabula, for example.
And unless you want to hear about how I got startled on Sunday, and the violence that ensued, I have nothing else to say. I’m sure I learned something else about writing this semester, but I have to go through my notes first.
Quote is from Chesterton’s Club of Queer Trades, in which a philosopher resorts to violence, proving to his Darwinian opponents what their scheme of morality leads to.