Our Writerly Roundup series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don’t want you to miss.
Spring is here and it’s a good time to turn to your writing craft and perhaps incorporate a new craft tool or two. In this month’s Writerly Roundup, we look at several different craft techniques that can be added to your writer’s toolkit.
Please enjoy and share. If you have a current piece of writing you would like us to feature in our next Writerly Roundup, please send it our way to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing the Community” We”: Approaches to First-Person Plural Point of View, Brevity, Nancy Reddy
In her essay “Writing the Community “We”: Approaches to First-Person Plural Point of View” Nancy Reddy explores different ways in which authors have made use of a communal “we” in memoir.
Reddy is not talking about the “royal we” here, in which a writer assumes something about the experience of others. Rather, she discusses the powerful use of the communal or community “we” in two different memoir works:
First, she explores Jacquira Díaz’ memoir, Ordinary Girls, in which Díaz uses “we” to express the collective voice of the girls she grew up with:
After that opening paragraph, the memoir moves into first person with Díaz’s assertion that “I have been those girls” and a sequence of quick scenes from her own life. But the community we grounds the memoir in the fierce friendships that sustained Díaz through her adolescence.
This makes both the girls’ connection with one another and their outsider-ness with the larger society even more pronounced. In contrast, in Suzanne Rivecca’s essay “People are Starving” the “we” is also used powerfully, but in a very different way. It unites women from differing backgrounds in a shared experience of disordered eating and other struggles:
Rivecca’s community creates a coming-of-age story that transcends an individual life and shows, through specific details from very different lives, an experience that many women share.
Reddy gives specific ideas for writers to explore this technique in their own writing., such as exploring specifics of your hometown, using specific nouns, place names and other details, and trying to start a paragraph with “We were the ones” or “we knew”. These are great tools for any writer to explore.
3 Key Tactics for Crafting Powerful Scenes, Jane Friedman blog, Susan DeFreitas
In her piece, Susan DeFreitas, an author, editor, and book coach, shares three techniques for writing powerful scenes. It is scenes that the reader is the most emotionally engaged in the story and able to suspend disbelief:
Brain science tells us that when we read about a character doing or experiencing something, our brains light up in much the same way as if we were doing or experiencing that thing for ourselves—and nowhere is this illusion more complete than in scene.
The techniques she shares are 1) Dramatize turning points, 2) Employ reversals, and 3) Set it up, then step back.
These can work to make a scene more powerful. Often a writer is not deliberate about where scenes are placed, but doing so can serve to make the scene even more powerful, and emotionally engaged.
You’d think that, because scene is the place where the reader experiences the emotions of the story most viscerally it’s also the place to include a lot of information about what the POV character is feeling. But the opposite is actually true.
Interview: Kirsten Valdez Quade, Craft Literary, Albert Liau
Finally, Craft Literary explores author Kirsten Valdez Quade’s use of craft in her new novel, The Five Wounds, and story collection, Night at the Fiestas. Quade describes her enjoyment of writing in the close third person narrative and how it enables her to engage with her characters and reveal what she wants to about them:
I know a lot of writers who love the first-person point of view, and I’ve certainly written a couple stories in the first person. But I adore the close-third point of view because it is so elastic. With the third person, we can zoom out so that we are looking at the character from a distance and then we can zoom right into their brains and actually take on the language of the characters’ thoughts with free indirect discourse.
Will you try any of these craft techniques in your writing? Which are your favorites?
Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we’d love to hear your input!