Craft Your Work
So far we have been exploring right-brain techniques mainly for the purpose of generating ideas and material. In the process, we have studied some aspects of crafting, mainly through drawing on internalised knowledge (e.g. using ‘inner wisdom’ and games of chance to construct plots in Chapter 3, focusing attention on the mechanics of speech production in Chapter 4, and studying our reactions to other writers and other genres in Chapters 4 and 5).
This chapter deals specifically with crafting. In keeping with the approach of this book, it offers a right-brain perspective on the subject – perspective being the operative word. The right brain puts things together in a non-linear way. Activities such as completing jig-saw puzzles, recognising faces and ‘chunking’ ideas are what it does best. Unfortunately, story-making is ultimately a linear process and this is where strongly right-brain oriented writers can come unstuck. Analysing, sorting, sequencing – the processes involved in shaping and styling a finished piece, are mainly left-brain activities. All writers, regardless of their hemisphere preference, need to master these in order to communicate effectively with their readers. Of course, it is in the processes involved in editing that the left-brain really comes into its own, and this is the subject of the next chapter.
There are many excellent books which approach the craft of writing in a practical left-brain way (see the reading list for recommended examples). Their advice can be invaluable, particularly for genre writers who need to master the fine points of particular formats.
A very good way of encouraging a happy partnership between right and left brain functions, is to use the approaches suggested in this chapter alongside those found in books with a more technical orientation. Eventually the two strands can be woven together – which brings us to the next section.
WEAVE YOUR MATERIAL
By the time you come to craft your finished piece, you will have assembled relevant material from a number of sources: writer’s notebook, dream journal, timed writing, guided visualisation, tarot spreads to mention but a few. Some of this material will relate to characters, some to places, some to particular objects and some to feelings, mood and atmosphere. Having selected and sorted what you need, the task of weaving it all together begins.
As you weave character, place and mood together, tune in constantly to see how these various elements are responding to each other. How does the character feel about that place? How does the setting respond to the presence of the character? Which of them is responsible for the mood – or is it reciprocal? What situation might arise from bringing this person to this place?
- Try using each of the elements – character, place, objects, feelings, atmosphere – as symbols or metaphors for each other. How does this affect the dynamics?
- How is the pace affected by the language you have chosen? (See Chapter 4.) Is the pace right for the atmosphere or mood you are trying to convey? Is the language suited to the place and the character?
If the piece you are developing is part of a longer work, use the same interactive approach when weaving it into the main fabric. Dialogue with all the elements concerned. Treat the new piece as you would any newcomer to a group. Introduce it with tact and awareness.
- Now make the weaving process itself the subject of timed writing or of a short-short story (see Chapter 1) and see whether this gives further insight.