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Writing Tips - A Few Cautions

The suggestions that follow are phrased to cover the matter of visualization, but they touch upon general principles which are of wider application. It has seemed more convenient at this point to give them this specific treatment.

Author's Purpose should be Concealed — An attempt to bring about a visualization or any other artistic effect in the mind of the reader is foredoomed to failure when in any way the writer's purpose too evidently betrays itself as such. Too much in the way of direct statement or predication is one indication of such purpose, and is therefore more or less ineffectual. For effective visualization some sort of preparation of the mood or sympathies of the reader is generally required. This, however, should be concealed, being accomplished through suggestion, as is the visualization itself.

Unity in Visualization — A visualization should be so managed as to bring the whole picture, or nearly all of it, into the mind at once. It is partly because it does not do this that the method by details is not generally effective. A string of incomplete images passing through the mind, each one taking the place of the preceding and effacing it, is not artistically satisfying. It is possible to retain such separate images and at the end bring them together in a complete picture, but this will require effort on the part of the reader; and it is fundamentally important in all writing to reduce the conscious attention and effort of the reader to the lowest point. Only extreme literary art can so nullify this effort in effect as to make description by detail pleasurable, if of any length. Description by detail is, perhaps, more admissible in writing having a meditative tone than in any other, except, of course, technical description.

Fine Writing — Fine writing is especially to be avoided in visualization, since the tone of artificiality is immediately destructive of the reader's confidence in the sincerity of the writer. It betrays the author's purpose of producing an effect. The appearance of truth free from any semblance of over-statement is a first requisite.

In any visualization harmony of detail is of prime importance. Even in describing something actually seen it will sometimes be necessary to leave out items really present, but not of a kind to contribute to the general effect. The saying that "Truth is stranger than fiction" should read that fiction may not be as strange as truth. Harmony of mood is important, as well as harmony of detail, in the thing described. If the picture is a quiet one, exclamatory excitement on the part of the writer, however affecting the scene may be supposed to be, will prevent its becoming real to the reader. These things are, then, to be borne in mind with regard to the elements of a visualization: the details presented must be so far true to common knowledge and experience as to gain ready belief, they must have unity in fact and in effect, and they must also be sufficiently individual to appeal to the mind with something of the sense of novelty.

Narrative Forms

Literary Divisions and General Principles

The Story in Particular

Special Study of the Story

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