Speaking in Pictures
Most of us decide to become writers because we have a message to share with the world. Unfortunately, our instincts often get in the way of sharing that message in a way that readers can absorb.
I’m just as guilty as the next person. I think of what I want to say. Sometimes (usually), I lay it out in a list or outline. Then, I baldly state what I have to say and wonder why no one responds. It’s a lesson I know in my head but am still working on putting into practice. (See most of my blog posts for examples.)
Are you guilty of this too?
Pictures, Not Lists
Think of your most vivid memories. Do any of them contain bullet points or outline levels? If you said yes, congratulations. You have a rare and unusual mind. (Great if your goal is to be unique, not so much if your goal is to connect with others.)
The rest of us tend to think in pictures and stories. After all, stories are pictures we create in our heads in response to the words we hear and read.
I wish I could remember who said it (or even take credit for it myself), but I once heard that we think in pictures but speak in words. That thought struck me and keeps coming back to me, partly because I see the need for bridging that gap in a lot of what I read and partly because it’s so hard for me to do.
Think of the Bible. Even Jesus taught in stories. There’s a reason he used so many parables.
Lists and outlines are just tools for organizing our thoughts. The real writing occurs when we flesh those thoughts out on the page. And that means turning those outlines into pictures made of words.
Take a Lesson from the Experts
I don’t mean writing teachers or literary critics. I’m talking about your favorite authors. Who do you want to write like? Who in your field is absolutely crushing it? Now, pick up one of their books and flip to the first page of the first chapter.
Chances are they started with some kind of personal story, analogy, or vivid imagery, depending on the genre. That’s because they know that the very beginning of the book is critical for catching your reader’s attention. Readers will hold on and continue reading for a surprising number of pages, and even chapters, if you can get them properly engaged from the outset, and the best way to do that is with a story.
Next time you’re struggling to make your writing interesting and memorable, try thinking up a good analogy, example, or personal story. You might be amazed by the results.
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.