What is the single greatest challenge in tackling a new piece of writing?
The biggest and probably the most important hurdle is in the storytelling – it’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.
It’s too easy to write a collection of scenes or snippets, but where is the metaphor that will give significance to our work?
Metaphor and theme may seem like advanced topics but they are the bones of the story, and I explore them in this episode of the Writing Talk Podcast.
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Writing Talk Podcast Show Notes
- We’re not looking for literary criticism here – in-depth analysis would be wasted effort.
- The true theme of a piece often emerges after the act of writing.
- What we are looking for is a sense of significance – why should we read your piece? What value will it add to our lives? How satisfying will it be as a reading experience?
- Pull your work touch our lives in some way, or will it be just bubblegum for the eyes?
- Don’t overthink it. You are probably excited about writing this story for some personal reason of your own. What is it about the story that is grabbing your attention?
- Similarly, don’t be too heavy-handed in discussing your theme. Hint at it, but don’t continually bash us over the head with it.
- Having some idea of the underlying significance of your piece right from the start, should help you to stay on track.
A quote from Ray Bradbury:
“Do you know why teachers use me? Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember. The great religions are all metaphor. We appreciate things like Daniel and the lion’s den, and the Tower of Babel. People remember these metaphors because they are so vivid you can’t get free of them and that’s what kids like in school. They read about rocket ships and encounters in space, tales of dinosaurs. All my life I’ve been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn one over and say, Yeah, there’s a story. And that’s what kids like. Today, my stories are in a thousand anthologies. And I’m in good company. The other writers are quite often dead people who wrote in metaphors: Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne. All these people wrote for children. They may have pretended not to, but they did.”
― Ray Bradbury (Source: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/566251-do-you-know-why-teachers-use-me-because-i-speak)
Write a piece of no more than 1000 words.
The theme is “missing” – take that any way you wish, e.g. one person longing for another, an object or person goes missing, a target or goal is missed.
Base the action around a single character. Invent your own or use a man called Scott who is 53 years old.
In the first couple of sentences bring in the character and hint at their lives and their past. You need a hook.
Develop the character through their actions.
End with some sort of climax or resolution.
Ask yourself where the metaphor/the story’s message lies. Where is its truth?
If you plan to use this piece, e.g. on your blog or in an anthology, rewrite it as necessary. Take your time. Cut and polish.
Post in your online space and comment here with a link – it’s a good idea to state if this is a first draft or a more polished piece. Please provide positive feedback for others.
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