Thursday, February 7, 2008

Texture and Flavor in Writing

Texture and flavor. Is it a description on a bad Super bowl commercial? Not quite. I’m talking about your writing.

Texture and flavor are two things (among many) to keep in mind while you're writing. Texture is how something feels -- the grittness of sandpaper -- the smoothness of silk. They are both interesting and useful, but in different settings. You'll hardly ever find a dress made of sandpaper.

Texture in writing is mixing up the mechanics how you present your idea. The days of two-page long sentences a la War and Peace were buried with the buggy whip. I tend to write in run-on sentances and when I pay attention, I go back and fix the sentance up. I make some sentances and paragraphs long (not too long). '

And some short.

There are at least two reasons to mix up the size and demeanor of your sentances. One reason is because your sentances dictate pace and mood to your reader. If you're describing a chase you may want short clipped sentances with powerpacked words to emulate action. A romantic interlude may use more mellow phrases and carefully selected words that set a an alluring.

The second reason to consider texture is to make your writing look more inviting. Whether you’re writing a magazine article or a blog or a nonfiction book, you should be aware of how your sentences look on the page. Are you pages full of words, words, words? Think about fitting in short paragraphs along with the others.

Like this.

I’m not sure if people are just lazy today or if we’re all stupider than we used to be. But readers don’t what formidable writing. We’ve grown up on thirty second commercials and five second sound bites. We don’t want our paragraphs too long.

Give readers a little information at a time--enough to cover a thought and not much more. Be brief. Be focused. Be sharp.

In most writing markets, except academic, it’s okay to occasionally have very short and even incomplete sentences. Go ahead. Try it. It won’t hurt. See? And, it breaks up the rhythm of your writing. In fact, think about writing in a conversational style. It can keep your writing from become boring.

And speaking of boring. Don’t be. Spice up your writing with flavor. It’s like my grandpa used to say, “Put enough ketchup on it and anything is edible.” Colorful writing can come in a lot of forms. You can be regional – I’m a Texan so my writing can be as revealing as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader outfit.

There are lots of flavors to choose from. Try writing with humor (always effective), sensuously, witty, hatefully (I hate that one) or forcefully. Define your voice. Find an appealing, engaging, powerful and flavorful voice.

If you keep texture and flavor in mind when you're writing then your work will be more readable and your material more saleable.

Go for it.

1 comment:

Simplicity said...

Thank you for this. My writing teacher talked about texture but didn't really explain it. Now I get it.