How to Write Great Prose to Bring Together Your Perfect Novel
by Claire Hall
Writing prose is a highly subjective process that is not always confined to the bounds of a fixed set of rules. Before you think about writing prose, try to keep in mind that writing itself, and indeed what you write, is simply an extension of yourself.
Your experiences, your life and the things you have seen or done are as unique to you as someone else’s experiences are to them. Even if you took two people of the same age and made them live identical lives and identical experiences, such as is the case with many identical twins, you would still find that there are vast differences in how each of those two individuals perceives the reality around them, eventually forming their own view of the world based on their own emotions, internal drives and motivators.
So we’ve established that you are unique, but importantly this means that as a writer, your style of writing prose is just as valid as the prose writing of say, Charles Dickens, Stephen King or Emily Bronte. The trick is to release the person that is inside you and let that person do the writing.
A great exercise to help you do this is to close your eyes and think of a place or a person you feel strongly about. These could be good or bad feelings, it really doesn’t matter but you must have a strong emotional affinity towards that person or place.
Now, just try and feel that person or place in your mind. Don’t try to describe them, just feel and release your emotions towards that person or place. If you do this exercise a few times, before long your wider senses take over and you start to ‘see’ the person or place in your mind.
Add your senses of hearing, sound and smell, and you can really start to feel that person or place as well - this is the ‘inside you’ talking to the outside world with your own unique set of perceptions.
Immediately, when you open your eyes, just start writing (or typing if you are using Newnovelist). You will be amazed at how descriptive you suddenly become and you’ll be able to write volumes of prose after just a few sessions.
Now the amazing thing is that you can apply this principle not only to people or places but also to situations, objects, the weather or just about anything you can think of. Project the ‘inner you’ to that object or situation and the object or situation will ultimately project itself back to you, and writing the prose will just become a beautiful and easy side process to perform.
Release the inner you in your writing. Apply your unique set of perceptions and experiences to the flow of your writing and don’t worry about grammar and the rules of writing. Just get what is inside YOU, written down as soon as it flows through your mind and Newnovelist will take care of making it all work together.
Science Fiction Writing Exercise
Now, let me tell you the most amazing thing of all! Imagine you are writing science fiction and you need to write prose for this. You need to describe a planet and its inhabitants. Apply the principles described here to this situation and suddenly the prose will flow like water from a tap.
All you need to do is project yourself to the planet that exists in your mind and you’ll be able to ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ the life forms living there, the colour of the plants that exist there, the colour of the sky, the buildings the inhabitants live in; the history of the civilization; the wars they may have fought and just about everything you could need to complete your description of the planet.
You can apply this to horror writing, romance, fiction, non-fiction - in fact, you could apply it to just about everything, it works every time. So you see the person, place or object need not even be real. They can be totally imaginary, but it’s your perceptions and your outlook on the world that will make them unique. And that is Prose!
Adding Something Extra to Your Writing
Now we’ve gone through the creative process of writing prose, you should have a very large volume of material which you can work with to form the content of your novel. You can also do some really beautiful and interesting things such as adding similes and metaphors or quirks to the objects or characters within the novel. For example, if you are writing a Western, you could write about how your main character always pronounces words with a Southern Twang, or if the story is about a guy who lives in a run-down overcrowded New York apartment block, how the character always has to bang the wall in the morning to stop the married couple next door arguing loudly when he’s trying to get more sleep.
The power of Newnovelist is that it allows you to be creative and release the inner you and then, when you are ready, jumps in to help you with suggestions on how to organise these ideas. Newnovelist puts a structure in place for you, so that all your random thoughts and writings (because you never know when you are going to be inspired) become part of a flowing storyline of prose.
It becomes an extension of you, helping you to create workable structured prose with metaphors, similes and other interesting and compelling special features. With Newnovelist your writing is still YOU, but simply the best of YOU!
Why not try it now and be amazed to see your prose flow like that of a bestselling author. Remember you are unique so let Newnovelist help you find the bestseller that has always been in you waiting to be written!
Characteristics of Good Prose
Moving on to some of the unique tested characteristics of good prose writing, a celebrated author recently wrote:
“Literature isn't a bureau with discrete drawers marked ‘crime novel’, ‘serious novel’, ‘science fiction’ or ‘poetry’, It’s more like this huge buffet table heaped with all kinds of food: shellfish, cold cuts, fruit, eight or nine cheeses, hors d'oeuvres, a smoked ham, chafing dishes of vegetables and soups. Both as reader and as writer you walk around it, taking what you want, what you need”.
And so it is with writing prose. You look at yourself, your unique standpoint and perceptions of the world around you, then take what applies from your experiences and put them towards writing prose for your Novel.
Writing for Publishers ... the Importance of a Good Title
Another, factor, which we’re sure is very important to most writers out there, is the ability to write prose that catches the attention of publishers immediately and right through to the end of the novel.
Author and Writing Judge, Sarah Duncan, recently pointed out that contrary to what many authors believe when they first start writing, the title of your novel is as essential a part of the overall work as the contents of the novel itself. The title is the first ‘hook’ to catch the publishers’ attention and novelists wishing to become published ignore it at their peril.
Nevertheless, the title of your novel can be provisional; often the first one chosen is discarded once the essence of the book is committed to the page. Opening pages, too, can be replaced later, but that suggests insufficient planning before the writing proper began. If you are looking to eventually get published, it would be worth remembering that fishermen don’t dangle hook-less lines above their trout to bore them to death. Tasty bait on sharp hooks work! Make that your mantra for your opening paragraphs and as much as possible, plan ahead.
Importance of Having a Theme
The Importance of Vivid Imagery
Vivid imagery also draws the reader in.
Capture the reader's interest in, and empathy for, your characters. You need to paint such a vivid picture that the reader can imagine himself or herself to be in the scene. Again this goes back to placing yourself there and transposing this into your writing as we discussed earlier.
That involvement is often referred to as reader empathy. And an empathetic reader lives the fictional dream. Let's look at some of the ways in which this can be achieved.
To create vivid imagery, use specific, concrete details. Don't write "book", write the title of a specific book, one that conveys the tone and mood of the character at that moment, their reading preferences which convey insight into their character. Select specific details that create and convey the emotional impact you, the writer, want conveyed.
An example from Upon a Mystic Tide:
Sitting in her old, red rocker, Miss Hattie turned on the large, antique radio behind her. Big band era music drifted through the kitchen, and she softly hummed along with it. Her head bowed, she studied the embroidery in her lap. She was sewing the Seascape Inn logo onto a new batch of crisp, white napkins. Yellow thread. Was the colour significant to women of her age?
In this example, the specific and concrete details are: the red rocker, the large, antique radio, embroidering napkins with yellow thread, the big band music and humming.
Incorporating these details into the work has created a vivid image of Miss Hattie, sewing, humming, rocking. Obviously, she isn't stressed, so, by the type of details selected, mood is created, tone is set.
Remember, vivid imagery requires specific and concrete details. Don't write tree. Write oak. Don't write emotion. Write fear or sorrow, guilt or shame. Don't write dog. Write Doberman, or Yorkie. Don't write chair. Write rocker. Write cinematically. Write vivid images that create pictures in the reader's mind just like the pictures you saw when you closed your eyes and went there yourself.
Think of the novel page as a blank canvas. Only what the author chooses to disclose will be painted on that canvas. The more specific the detail painted, the more vivid the image on the canvas and in the reader's mind. Writers tend to lean heavily on visual images. Visual images are crucial, but not all-inclusive.
The Importance of ALL the Senses
The other senses should not be neglected. They are vital. Smell is particularly powerful. In the above scene from Upon a Mystic Tide with Miss Hattie, there are references to the scents of sea spray, of blueberry muffins, of peonies. (Note that all are soothing images, which reinforce the emotional mood and tone of the scene.)
What do the characters hear? A grandfather clock's steady ticks, the fridge motor's soft whir. The ice-maker plopping cubes into the bin. Birds chirping. Soft, homey, comforting sounds.
If your character is standing on the shore, does he feel the sea spray gather on his skin? Does it chill? Raise gooseflesh?
If your character is mellow, does he look out upon the sun spangled sea and feel lulled by the smooth roll of the waves? Does your character rub his calloused hands together nervously when uneasy? Do pungent fragrances make his nostrils sting?
In the above references, the mood of the scene and character, is portrayed by the images selected and the character's sensory perception.
Tactile perceptions add texture. Feel the grate of sandpaper, the smooth finish on a beloved antique, the needle punching into fabric and the silken thread pulling through it.
Ever had your mouth water at a particular smell? A memory evoked by the sound of a song? Ever taste a cherry tart and remember the first one you ate? These sensory perceptions breathe life into human beings. Characters emulate human beings.
Therefore, to breathe life into characters, the writer should include the character's sensory perceptions, again going back to projecting yourself to the situation mentally and then taking the reader there with you!
Newnovelist creates environments, plots, situations, objects and characters, in fact, all of the above and much, much more so that when you project yourself, you have an idea to work with which you can apply to your own unique Inner Person. Then when you are ready, you can go back to Newnovelist to develop that particular idea further. It truly is an amazing piece of software that works with you from all angles during, before and after your own creative processes, to create a beautiful masterpiece that you can be truly proud of and which potentially millions of readers will enjoy!
Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com