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Rewriting Journals
March 27, 2011 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Creative Writing Tips Wanted!

I'm thinking of rewriting some of my old diaries. My old writing style is close to the dry, matter-of-fact, record-style. So before my memory deteriorates, I wanna spice things up a bit, or even change of some events to make them more compelling. I'm settled for first person POV. I might insert some poems, dramatic monologue, dialogues, letters, etc., as I see fit. I also want to use a lot of flashbacks and imagery. I want to focus heavily on depicting emotions.

Any ideas are welcome. If possible, you could also suggest any sites/books that I could read.

Thanks.
posted by easilyconfused to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reading is the best way to become a better writer. I always feel more inspired and creative after I've read something really impressive. And there's nothing wrong with mimicking a style you admire to get your story written.
posted by litnerd at 3:12 PM on March 27, 2011


First of all, figure out why you (or the narrator, if you want to create a character) is telling the story. You don't have to state it anywhere in the text, but it helps you organize your text to know what needs saying and what doesn't. Second, figure out who you (or the character) is telling the story too (can be real people, can be characters in the book, can be society at large). Again, that helps you organize the mass of material you already have and, more importantly, figure out what's missing and therefore needs to be added in.
posted by Kattullus at 3:24 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kinda opposite of Katullus, you could play it like the TV show "The Wire" and just drop the reader into the middle of an ongoing life.
posted by rhizome at 3:29 PM on March 27, 2011


For expressing emotions, actually expressing emotions is dull. "When X happened, he was really happy. Then he got sad. Then he got happy again." That's pretty useless, as a description.

Instead, focus on the body. What happens to you, physically, when you feel an emotion? Describe that. Pay deep, close attention to what you feel when you say you're feeling an emotion.

Following litnerd, I'd suggest reading Stephen King for this. One of the things he does amazingly well is make the emotions of the characters seem viscerally real.
posted by meese at 3:30 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds like what you're looking to do is something along the lines of creative non-fiction. I'd recommended reading some creative non-fiction anthologies and journals for inspiration and to see what types of techniques others are using. Brevity is a really good one that is available online for free.
posted by overglow at 3:51 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read, read, read, read. Oh, also, read.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:25 PM on March 27, 2011


Tell us without telling us. People are pretty well trained at being people so they (we) can pick up a lot from context and shared history and culture and physiology.

You don't necessarily have to change the particulars of your life to make it interesting; instead, edit ruthlessly.
posted by doublehappy at 4:46 PM on March 27, 2011


Just an example of telling without telling...

In the beginning of Rabbit, Run, John Updike has the reader guess (or infer) at exactly what it is that the protagonist is doing on the big picture level. It looks a little like this: Rabbit sneaks over to his mother's house to watch her feed his baby, Rabbit sneaks over to his mother-in-law's house to retrieve the car his wife left there, Rabbit gets on the interstate and tries to figure out how to get from New England to Georgia while counting his money - Wait a second! Rabbit's running away?!

Updike tells us about Rabbit's actions, leaving us to guess at his larger intentions for a little while
posted by jander03 at 11:54 AM on March 28, 2011


Following on from "read, read, read", in some of my CW classes we would read a piece and then have to try and write something in the style of that piece; in poetry this is called writing a parallel poem. The next time you read something that makes you go, "yeah, I want to do something like this," take a page or two of your diary and try to rewrite it like that.

Use sense images as stand-ins for feelings or thoughts, to echo meese. You can also use external description to reflect internal stuff; if you're writing from the first person, what the speaker describes seeing or hearing or whatever can tell the reader a lot about what the speaker is thinking, without having to spell things out explicitly. I really like Hemingway for this purpose; he's very good at conveying emotion without dictating it, and he's notoriously staccato and the antithesis of flowery prose.

You might try playing with basic format, too. I sometimes like to set off flashback stuff in italics with current events in standard case, especially if I'm trying to do something where the memory is flitting back and forth quickly, and italicization has a certain implied metaphor as being set off from regular text. You might not stick with it or end up doing something totally different, but it might be fun to experiment with.

Above all, just try stuff. Reading makes you a better writer, but so does writing, so give yourself permission to just go with whatever idea you come up with next and commit to it for a page or two, see how you like it.
posted by Errant at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


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