Can’t Fix Boring

Adair Lara, author of Naked, Drunk and Writing says “You can’t fix boring.” It’s really true. You may understand POV perfectly; you may have perfect archetypal characters; you may set your story in a truly amazing setting; and you may have pretty and soothing language. But unless your writing is fresh and imaginative, your story isn’t going to be successful (and of course this is true of poetry, but since we just finished National Poetry Month, I promise I won’t go there!).

Your job is to frequently surprise you readers with the words you use and their juxtaposition. I know, in the past I have railed against the overuse of adverbs and adjectives, but if you can use them in an imaginative way, then do. Surprise your readers with the unexpected verb, noun, adjective or adverb. Lara says you should surprise, provoke and astonish your reader with at least one startling word (or image) per page.

Here’s a great example from The Incantation of Frida K. by Kate Braverman:

Every street in Chinatown was a point of entry. I was startled by the fish markets. Afternoon stalled as I entered, as if it were me, Frida, rather than the dead fish, that could not get enough air into her longs. I felt becalmed. Fish on beds of ice, all their eyes wide open. A vague odor that might have been an attribute of sunlight and fog.

The fish were a mysterious gray like the essence of late afternoon waters in November. Their mouths were uniformly open, as if in a collective chant. The fish eyes were bulging and they were all facing the same direction. They were staring at the point on the compass where Buddha was. I should remember the angle, find the coordinates, make calculations, purchase a map and globe. Then I would know where to plant crops to avoid flood and drought.

And from Anne Lamott, who is always good for a great turn of the word. Her she is in Plan B – Further Thoughts on Faith.

The day after Sam turned thirteen, we were going through our usual hormonal transformations together, which is to say, sometimes the house gets crowded. There was Sam at thirteen – usually mellow, funny, slightly nuts. But when the plates of the earth shifted, there was the Visitor, the Other. I called him Phil.

Go through some of your favorite novels, memoirs (and poetry – okay, I did just slip that in) and see how these authors astonish their readers. Then, try it on your own. Take a dull paragraph and breathe some life into it. Your readers will thank you.

Catch me on Mind of the Matter, talking with Susan Hickman, Ph.D., about The Writable Life. The interview will be posted on May 3, but you can catch it on the WEBSITE  at any time.

For more tips, advice, and inspiration on writing, please visit My Blog.