By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. “I will not Reason and Compare,” said Blake; “my business is to Create.” Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ” ― Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
Comparing the Writing
I will just get this out there to begin with; I have poet envy. Poets get to use: assonance, metonymy, onomatopoeia, simile, and synecdoche. I am in awe of the poets. I do not think as they do. They get to use symbols, paint pictures, and use metaphors to develop the topic and convey the passion.
I like to call them apple writers. Think about all the varieties and colors of apples, or the many things we can do with apples:
- Bake them
- Put them in a pie
- Shine one and give it to a teacher
- Keep the doctor away
- Dry them for your holiday trees
- Make a Pandowdy, Grunt, Crumble or Clafouti
Regardless of the envy, I am not going to start writing poetry tomorrow. So what does that leave us as “orange writers” or the non-poets?
What I refer to as Orange Writing is narrative non-fiction. We get to develop the facts. That even reads boring compared to the apples and poets. However, there is still room within this for creativity.
Barbara Lounsberry in her book, The Art of Fact helps redefine facts with, “Verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research guarantee the nonfiction side of literary nonfiction; the narrative form and structure disclose the writer’s artistry; and finally, its polished language reveals that the goal all along has been literature.”
Even with the blessings to be creative, I have struggled with:
- How to convey passion to the reader?
- How best to engage the reader with information?
- How to frame the article to reach a wider audience?
Different Styles of Passion, Poetry and Prose
How we convey our passion is going to be different, not just between poetry and prose but within narrative nonfiction as well. I find that if I write as though I am talking and listening to one person, I write better. I ask questions of the imaginary reader to:
- Connect on an emotional level
I recently edited a computer newsletter. While I’ve had a computer since the days of the Mac 512K, I am not an expert. I told the owner of the site that the information was excellent, however, it was too technical. Since this was a newsletter for his customers, I wondered how many of them were more like me – a user of the computer, or like him – an expert at fixing the problems?
He agreed that 99% of them were users, so I asked if the newsletter wouldn’t be more helpful if it approached his technical information from a personal perspective. I was able to use his expert advice but also explain the problem from the standpoint of a user’s fear of the Blue screen of Death.
- Learn from reader comments
I do not profess to know all there is about being a successful writer, either. I am still learning. I hope that when I write about something I have just learned or researched that it comes across as, “Wow, I just learned this or I figured out how to do this and wanted to share.”
You may already know the information, so it might just be a reminder for you; however, most of us need reminders from time to time, and often the comments reflect that while the subject wasn’t new, my perspective on it was. Therefore, I’ve accomplished one goal of the non-fiction writer; make the reader think, question, or interest them enough to comment.
- Show them, don’t tell them
Writers learned that a flat sentence would leave reader bored. However, may nonfiction writers still tell, and that’s boring, repetitious and tedious. If we focus on the action, emotions and descriptions of the subject, we’re more likely to capture the reader’s attention.
Action verbs, illustrative adjectives , and powerful emotions mean that readers empathize or relate to events, people and situations more easily, and in turn continue reading.
Apples, Oranges and What About Those Other Delights?
How we convey our information to make it more than just the facts in narrative non-fiction might be:
- Changing someone’s thinking with persuasive facts and personal perspective
- Compelling, dramatic examples of life
- Repeating sage wisdom of the ages with a new twist
Okay, I am over my poet envy. I can still use alliteration in my narrative articles, use words that illustrate the heart of the post. I can capture the imagination of the reader or relate through emotional writing. And to show my lack of jealousy, here’s a list of some poets in my world.
I Tip My Hat to the Poets I Know
- Scott Biddulph, my partner at Two Drops of Ink, for his softer side
- Mike Thorne and his wonderful ditties
- Alx Johns: professor and poet
- Phyl Campbell’s tongue twisting rhymes – and about grammar no less
- Jeffery Thompson sharing moments that we’ve all experienced
- L.R.Laverde-Hansen capturing random human situations
- Ian Thorpe for sometimes making me giggle
- Delicia Powers for the beauty of nature in Maine
- Stella Mitchell for the earnest way she shows us her heart
And who knows, there may be hybrids out there who write poems and nonfiction posts in ways we haven’t thought of yet. That’s the beauty of writing; each of us will create our unique piece and that’s enough for me today.
Hope it is for you.