Whether one is writing a simple role-playing response, authoring a huge, revolutionary novel, or sending their dear great-grandmother a letter, adding color to your literary approach can make the finished piece all that much more interesting. Afterall, you don't want to bore your poor old grandmother to death, now do you? When I say "adding color", I am not only referring to the amount of depth and detail that one puts into their writing, but the way that they word their sentences as well. We've all encountered cliché statements, such as "He was so hungry he could eat a horse", and they have a tendency to get old and tired after they've been run through more times than everybody's not-so-favorite sitcom. This tutorial has been designed to aid in the painting of the literary canvas so as to make it as imaginable and intriguing as possible.
Those Precious Little Details
When writing, it's always good to add enough detail to make what you're trying to illustrate interesting. "The boy went to school" is bland and boring. However, "The young man went to the Blueberry High School on the corner of Eastside Avenue" is significantly more entertaining. Let's look at a sample paragraph, and add some liquor.
Sample A - Bland Version
Greg was a soldier for the military. Today, he was expected at work to hear a lecture. Greg didn't like lectures, but it was part of his job, so he had no choice. Greg was still asleep when his alarm clock went off to wake him up. He sat up in his bed, yawned, and then got ready for the day.
Sample A - Colorful Version
Gregory was a professional combat soldier for the infamous Edwinish military. In his young stupid days, he had thought that shacking up with the army was the greatest thing since Tomas Edison invented the light bulb, but now that he had endured two divorces and one mid-life crisis, the washed-out cat didn't think that being paid to stand in front of oncoming fire was just a basket of peaches and apples. In fact, he hated his job. Loathed it even. Prying his eyelids open at six o' clock in the morning every new, dull day was as exalting as reading Shakespeare in highschool.
When his alarm clock scared him half to death at the dawn of the sun, Greg could only find the will to curse and moan as he awkwardly tried to slam the snooze button without his vision. After irritatingly jamming the snooze several times, the feline finally resolved his stiff, bony body to roll onto the floor with a painful, albeit quietly-absorbed thump. A long, unhappy yawn sounded ungracefully from his maw, and he begrudgingly raised to his paw pads to meet with yet another monotonous cycle. Yes, life was wonderful. Wonderful and... oh so very peachy.
Now you see how I turned five graying sentences into nine young and pretty ones? The morning dilemma of Greg the cat is now much more striking and thought-provoking. If I had left it how it was, I could be rest assured that whoever read it wouldn't think twice about how it was written, then proceed to forget it and the author to never be recalled. The bland version simply left no lasting impression, because it never made an impression to begin with.
In order to impress your readers, as well as keep yourself awake at the same time, you need to add as much detail and depth as possible while still making sure not to jump too high. Afterall, color is great, but if you mix in too much, you'll get a repulsive, unrecognizable shade. When taking up the pencil or assaulting the keyboard, it is best to always remember three crucial gems: Lacking doesn't help, Adequacy is your friend, and Extravagance is your foe. In other words, don't slack, put in a good effort, but don't overdo it, either.
One way to colorize your writing is to touch some basic history of the character. Another method is to simply describe what your character looks like, how they think, and what they're all about. But you don't have to be describing a character's outfit or the decorations of a place to use adjectives. It's also good to tack on descriptive words when you're moving around or not doing anything at all, such as "Sally walked across the room" being a crap sentence compared to "Sally tentatively walked across the room". I only added one word, and yet sentence two still sounds much better than its predecessor; the enhanced illustration gives you an insight into Sally's personality while simultaneously moving the plot along.
Shooting the Redundancy Horse
Oscar Wilde once said "Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit." I suppose I just lost creativity points for using that statement, but as long as it does its purpose to get my point across, I'll live with the damage. Wrong. Don't let that kind of attitude dominant your style, though, be aware that using recycled phrases isn't always something that can be avoided or is necessarily a bad photo to drop behind your dresser. In creative writing, utilizing a dead man's words to manage time can be compared to having an empty savings account. It's there, it exists, but it does nothing for you. If you want to be quoted yourself, you're going to have to make the effort to invent your own clever phrases. In this section, I will be giving you advice on how to do this without getting your tie caught in the door.
But first, let's focus on what happens when creativity has decided to leave you for your best friend.
Sometimes, perhaps more often than you'd like, you can't manage to devise something fresh. That's not a spaghetti stain on your white shirt, as long as you're wearing a napkin. In other words, if you've twisted your lobes to the point of a migraine, then try settling for an uncommon or unusual phrase instead. Obviously, this isn't something that you yourself manifested, but it's better than using the most tired line in the book. For example, "I feel as bright as a sunshiny day" is a terribly overused remark that you would sooner hear from your mother than a classic-status author. However, "I'm just peachy" is more unusual. You'd be surprised how many people have never heard a phrase that uses fruit to describe your mood, and yet it's far from an original catch.
Now for how to come up with those sweet little children that never curse at you or jump off your furniture.
Despite the dilemmas of originality that many authors believe will never be lifted from them, spitting out a new take on an old subject is not truly so difficult. This can be applied to something as simple as the description of a sensation to as complex as the workings of the entire plot itself. You don't need to submit to the fear that just because your ideas aren't sprouting extra limbs that they can't be weaved into an exclusive image. The trick is to resist those black-hearted urges to give into tired phrasing and story telling, and take a moment to think. Yes, "think" is the magic eight ball.
When I start to write something old and overused, I stop. For example, in that last paragraph, I was about to say "magic word" instead of "magic eight ball". However, "magic word" is one of the most overdone statements over the chronicles of the ages. So I stopped, and I thought a little harder. What would make sense and yet seem like a package of newly laid eggs? "Magic eight ball" still uses the word "magic" yet at the same time sounds a lot more crafty. Afterall, how often do you hear someone use the words "magic eight ball" when describing something? It's an overlooked toy with overlooked potential. These are the things that you need to give attention. Ponder on the most common of commodities and twist them into something new. Now let's look at some sample phrases, except this time around I think I'll add caffeine instead of liquor.
Sample B - Getting an Apple on Halloween
"That ball hit me so hard, I'm seeing stars."
Stars, God, Chuck Norris; it's all too predictable.
Sample B - Decorating the Perpetrator's House with Yolk
"That ball hit me so hard, I think I might have grown an extra head."
In other words, a fancy way of expressing that he's seeing double. Not something you'd really expect someone to say, but it still makes sense and therefore you get a score for shooting the redundancy horse.
All that took me was a little speculation on what else could possibly be related to being knocked ridiculous to the point of altered vision. Let's kill another horse.
Sample C - Being Caught Shoplifting on Camera
"I'm so hungry I could eat my shoe."
If you have to use this line then you're having a really bad day.
Sample C - Bribing the Clerk to Conveniently Lose the Tape
"I'm so hungry I could eat the pizza man."
Not only are you suggesting that you digest something other than an equine or a shoe, but you're doing it in a creative manner.
And that wraps up this section. Basically, what you want to remember is this: When you're about to use a tired line, stop, think, and twist. Even the most common things can be your friend if you know how to mutilate them into something appetizing.
A Bag of Tips
- Rarely just write that a character said something and that's the end, if you're going to draw attention to the fact that they said anything at all. Describe the tone of the character's voice. Give an insight into how the character is feeling. Mention if the character is glancing away at someone or something in particular when they speak.
- When you enter a new area, give a taste for what it looks like. Don't simply assume that the reader will imagine it on their own just because you used the word "beach" or "library". Is it a crowded, unruly beach? Is it a small, neat library?
- Consider the mental arrangement of a character when making up reactions as well as inciting them. Is the character particularly moral or have some otherwise personal view on a subject? Are they a nice, friendly person who always says "Thank you", or an obscene jackass who would sooner vandalize their neighbor's mailbox?
- People don't normally join an elaborate, dangerous adventure without a sufficient reason. Give realistic insight into why a character may hop onto a cause like a great crusade, without making them sound like they have the simplistic mind of a sheep. It would be more likely that they had some ridiculously over-the-top goal in mind than to merely be a faithful friend or a brainless follower. Faithful friends and brainless followers go along for ice cream; not dungeons and dragons.
- Antagonists are pretty and smart, too. Even that bully that pushes you around on the playground may have a soft and intelligent side delicately stroking the violin. Don't over glorify the protagonists by always making them more apt than their adversaries. It's good to have the heroes get the occasional ass whipping just as it's satisfactory to get in a solid punch on that nasty little bastard that stole your Twizzlers.
And I declare this tutorial finished. Critique on the process of this guide is welcome if you have it. By the way, this isn't intended to knock anybody's writing style. It's just my personal opinions on the subject of literature enhancement to help those that may have trouble in the area of writing.