Writing memoir is an ongoing, life-changing process that begins to shape the way you perceive events as they occur and the choices you make. In a very real sense, writing memoir changes your heart.
Something similar happens as you study the craft of writing. You look for new ways to express your thoughts and experiences realistically and completely, to transform them from blah to brilliant. You learn the importance of including sensory description and search for ways to build bonds with readers. You read piles of books and blogs on writing techniques and sign up for classes.
Gradually bits and pieces fit together and your writing becomes more fluid and compelling. You begin to use scenes. You include realistic dialogue. You find your story arc and manage the flow of tension. You stretch for find similes for punch.
And you feel as if you are constantly adjusting seasoning in the stew.
What else does this need? Where can I fit this tidbit? Do I need more dialogue, more tactile description? you wonder. What’s still missing?
I’ve written through those stages of development. I became fascinated with topic of description several years ago, beginning with sensory elements. I obsessively broke sensory modalities into component parts and studied stories that took my breath away to analyze authors’ techniques. I discovered that sensory description goes beyond sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
I also realized it goes beyond adjectives, adverbs and similes. Nouns and verbs are involved. Cutting out word clutter, i.e. “dead would” helps. Attending to the “music” matters.
As I wrote the Introduction for my recently published book, The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description, I became confused. Where do you draw the line between description and other techniques? My mind spun in a dizzy whirl of color and concept as I tried to fit the pieces of that puzzle in place.
Suddenly, in a moment of supreme clarity, I realized, Labels don’t matter. Connecting with readers is the only thing that does! In that moment of epiphany, the puzzle shone forth in brilliant, organic wholeness. In that moment I realized,
Description is anything that shapes the reader’s perception of your message or story.
In a flash I was reminded that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and when you contemplate the pieces of any puzzle long enough, be they memories or craft techniques, they will eventually snap into place in an overall picture larger than you ever imagined.
On my way to that epiphany, I discovered awareness expanding techniques that have added color and zest to both written description and life, as exploring memories has also done. My life and my writing are works- in-progress, and both are transforming from blah to brilliant.