The Art in Writing

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

And words, skillfully put together, paint word pictures. 

Just how detailed should a writer’s word picture be?

Should settings and other descriptions be in-depth and intricate? Should they follow the example of realism, like the famous artists Jean-Francois Millet and Honore-Victorin Daumier and, thus create a word painting that “looks” real—like it would in real life?

Or should descriptions lend themselves to the more abstract, placing more of an emphasis on visual sensation, as did Picasso and Van Gogh?

My personal opinion, is that this is a matter of writing style— and as yours evolves, you will find that you prefer one over the other. 

But, remember:

Readers, also, will have a preference as to which authors they like to read. Some love to read flowing prose that uses up word count with lots of descriptive elements. Others may prefer minimal descriptive words, freeing them to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations.

Myself? Well, I find that I prefer to write—and read—somewhere in the middle. Give me enough description so that I understand the “big picture,” but not so much detail that it slows me down. I want to focus more on the action—the story—and let my mind fill in the descriptive blanks. I’m an abstract/realist.

Some genres may use more description than others. For instance, Fantasy and Sci-fi need more detailed descriptions because the writer is creating a world totally unlike our own earth. A large part of what makes those genres so interesting IS the description of the settings and characters in those alternate worlds.

Romance novels also use a lot of description because the reader has to find the characters desirable, so they will want to keep reading to find out if the “guy gets the girl” in the end. Thus, the reader must believe they are worthy of pursuing and being pursued.

So, should you paint your picture using a thousand words?  Probably not.

It is fun—also a challenge—to see how well you can describe something using a minimal amount of carefully-chosen words.

When you do this, you spark the imaginations of your readers so that they can actively participate in interpreting the word pictures you paint.

 

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What Is Speculative Fiction?

 

29544681983_f530265e0aChristian Writers of the West recently held our Rattler Writing Contest. One of the categories was Speculative Fiction. In that it is a less-understood genre, I explored a little. Here is what I found:

Pure fiction, tells stories in hypothetical situations, whereas speculative fiction tells stories that take place in hypothetical story-worlds different from our own.

Speculative fiction is a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world. It generally overlaps one or more of these: science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.

Speculative fiction encompasses works that don’t fit neatly into the separate genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy.

Stories such as Stranger in a Strange Land. The Twilight Zone. 

When you come across a story that both is and isn’t science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror, that’s speculative fiction.

David Bowlin of ShadowKeep Magazine states, “Speculative fiction is a world that writers create, where anything can happen. It is a place beyond reality, a place that could have been, or might have been, if only the rules of the universe were altered just a bit. Speculative fiction goes beyond the horror of everyday life and takes the reader (and writer) into a world of magic, fantasy, science.”

STEAMPUNK

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There was a time when I started writing a few years back, that I had to learn the meaning of quite a few terms. For example, I had no idea what speculative fiction and YA meant.

Recently, I relaxed a little, thinking that I’d caught myself up on all the terms and lingo. I was wrong, however.  As I read biographies of authors on Twitter last week, I came across an unfamiliar term.  Several authors spoke of writing Steampunk.

What in the world is Steampunk?

Here is what I found out:

Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that first became popular in the 1980’s.

These are works set in an era or fantasy world where steam power is used, often in the 19th century Victorian era England.

They have prominent elements of science fiction and fictional technology like that found in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

Some steampunk contains alternate history, such as in a post-apocalyptic future where steam power is in use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

Steampunk may also use elements from fantasy, horror, historical fiction, or other kinds of speculative fiction.

One of the earliest short stories relying on steam-powered flying machines is the 1844 The Aerial Burglar.

Recent books are: Khurt Khave’s Chainsaw Alice in Wonderland (2014); Quercia’s Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy (2014); and Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass.

So, now we know.

It doesn’t sound like what I would enjoy reading, (or writing, for that matter) but I hear through the grapevine that it is a favorite among geeky teenagers and young adults.

Seems like it would take a lot of research and a good deal of imagination.

It might be right up your alley.