Quick Announcement: Welcome back, everyone! Before we get into today’s blog, I wanted to say “thank you” for your patience! It is my goal to publish a new post every Wednesday, but sometimes life gets in the way and I have to post a day late—like I’m having to do this week. So, thank you for your patience and willingness to be flexible. As always, thank you for being a part of the Wilde About Books community!
Today we’re kicking off our first blog series, Writing Craft: Reading to Write. Our first week in our 4-week series is going to start with a question: What is writing craft? Today I’d like to have a brief discussion on what writing craft is and why it’s important to understand, and then I want to show you an example of writing craft in action in literature. My goal with this series is to help you hone your craft a bit more and show you how reading can make you a better writer. So, let’s get rolling…
What is writing craft? Writing craft is what we call all the elements that a writer uses to craft a story. Like an artist painting a canvas or a knitter making a scarf, these elements are woven together culminating into a full-length manuscript, a short story, essay, or article. Writing craft elements include purpose, theme(s), voice, plot, characterization, dialogue, diction (word choice), pacing, point-of-view, and more. Over the course of our 4-week blog series, I will break down some of these major elements. How a writer uses these elements is unique to their craft; And, like any other art form, writing is a skill that you learn and hone with practice.
Why is writing craft important? It’s important to understand what writing craft is and how the craft elements work together for two reasons: 1) you want to write the best story you possibly can, and 2) you want your readers to have the best reading experience they can. To feel like you’ve done the best job you can and to reach as many readers as possible are generally the goals of good writers. And, in my experience, it takes a good understanding of writing craft elements and alot of practice honing them like skills to reach those goals.
To get a better understanding of the major writing craft elements, I’ve found that reading is the best way to do so. It sometimes takes seeing how another writer uses plot, voice, or any of the elements to understand how to weave them into your own writing. So let’s take a look at a passage from Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses and discuss a few of the elements she uses in her book.
“Each of Tamlin’s movements was precise and efficient, his powerfully muscled legs eating up the earth as we wove between the towering trees, hopped over tiny brooks, and clambered up steep knolls. We stopped atop a mound, and my hands slackened at my sides. There, in a clearing surrounded by towering trees, lay a sparkling silver pool. Even from a distance, I could tell that it wasn’t water, but something more rare and infinitely more precious.
Tamlin grasped my wrist and tugged me down the hill, his calloused fingers gently scraping against my skin. He let go of me to leap over the root of the tree in a single maneuver and prowled to the water’s edge. I could only grind my teeth as I stumbled after him, heaving myself over the root.” (Maas pgs. 158-9)
The three craft elements that stand out to me the most in this passage are diction, characterization, and point-of-view. Maas precisely chooses words and phrases like “powerfully muscled legs,” “we wove…hopped…and clambered…,” “his calloused fingers gently scraped…,” and “he let go of me to leap over a root of a single maneuver and prowled…” The words and phrases work together to characterize Tamlin (a fae, or magical being) as a predator, who is quite agile and animal-like, in the eyes of Feyre (his human captive). If this passage had been written from the point-of-view of another fae, the words to describe Tamlin would likely not seem as predatory or animalistic, but because Feyre is still coming to know the man who took her captive, she sees him through more curious (perhaps fearful) observation.
What I just did was a brief, yet close analysis of a passage to determine what craft elements are present and how they are working together. You could do this with any piece of writing fairly quickly once you understand what the craft elements are. You’ll start to see them working together for a purpose, which will in turn help you craft your own writing.
Challenge: I’ll leave you with a challenge as we move towards next week’s blog. Take a look at a draft of your latest writing project, and start marking off where you’ve used some of these craft elements. Where are you building characterization? Where have you used dialogue instead of summary or description? Whose perspective are you writing from? For this week, start by asking yourself questions like these and finding the elements themselves in your text. Next week, we can dig a little deeper to see how those elements might be working together. If you’re just starting your next writing project, then make a list of all the elements you want to use and begin thinking of how you’d want to use them. Better yet, do some reading and try to find how your favorite authors are using the elements.
That’ll wrap up this week. Make sure you come back next week for week 2 of our blog series: Finding Your Purpose. And, let me know in the comments if you see any other craft elements working in the passage above. Happy writing, all!