Friday, November 09, 2007

Writing's Key Component

Do you write to entertain? To educate? To persuade? Or to express yourself? These are all legitimate, even noble goals. But if you want to have readers there is a more important goal that must underlie any other. That is, writing to communicate. No one entertains or educates unless he or she can convey something interesting to other people. No one gets rich from writing unless they can convey that interesting thing to large numbers of people. The transmission of ideas and emotions is basic to all writing.

It seems to me that if you want to be read then your primary purpose must be to get your point across, whatever that point may be. Some writers dress up their points with metaphorical language. Other's bury their points under layers of symbolism and subtlety. Others write in prose that is translucent, under which the meaning lies like bones under an X-ray. Any of these can be effective, although for myself I tend to strive for the first and the last rather than the middle. But ultimately no approach matters unless the reader thinks or feels that thing which you wanted him or her to think or feel.

That's my point.

22 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent. This effectively addresses Camus' notions on the nobility of writing, too (i.e. there are many reasons to write)

SzélsőFa said...

Agree.
The whole writing to be read thing looses its purpose if the writing is inarticulate and/or non-comprehensible.

Lana said...

Woah, dude! Bitchin entry! (See why I don't write?)

Church Lady said...

Yes, I agree!

Bernita said...

Agree.
What Szelsofa said.

Angie said...

Exactly. That's why I just eyeroll at writers who bury their meaning under layers of muddy symbolism and vague, hinting innuendo, then whine that the readers don't understand them. [wry smile]

One can certainly write for a particular audience, and someone who's not a member of that audience might well not understand or appreciate a story or article or whatever, but when members of your target audience misunderstand or just plain don't understand, the fault is squarely with the writer.

Angie

Steve Malley said...

Hm, I try not to think too much about why I write. At the moment I have my hands full trying to *do* it well!

JR's Thumbprints said...

My best writing class in college was actually "Public Speaking 101." You knew immediately whether you connected with your audience, or whether you stunk up the place.

Stella said...

Well, hey, I write poetry. I like language, even when it's dressed up -- anything that helps the reader see something in a fresh way. And that's the point of writing, after all, IMHO.

ivan said...

To coin a phrase, you hit the nail on the head.
But writers themselves can be so obtuse.
I did have a girlfriend once, another writer.
She kept saying, "I don't want to see you any more."
"Yeah, yeah," I'd said. "But what's your point"

Leigh Russell said...

According to F Scott Fitzgerald -"You don't write because you want to say something. You write because you've got something to say."

I like that. I like to keep it simple. Is it necessary to agonise over writing? I'm new to it all, so very naive, and still on a roll. So I'm going to enoy the ride for as long as it lasts. Right now, all I need is an idea - a scene, a character, a plotline - and I'm off. The actual writing seems to more or less take care of itself. When the ideas dry up, I'll stop writing, although I don't think that's going to happen soon. I've only just begun and I absolutely love it.

You're welcome to visit my blog some time if you want to read more about my experience as a new (and soon to be published!!) author. Comments from fellow readers and writers are always welcome.

Michelle's Spell said...

I agree Charles! I write mostly to understand things. Without writing, I would be totally and completely lost. The other part is that it provides mystery for me. I never know what I'm going to say before I say it and that's a great thing in my overplanned, totally predictable life.

Michelle's Spell said...

I agree Charles! I write mostly to understand things. Without writing, I would be totally and completely lost. The other part is that it provides mystery for me. I never know what I'm going to say before I say it and that's a great thing in my overplanned, totally predictable life.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, you make me feel more in tune with the literary world than I deserve. :)

Szelsofa, exactly. No sense striving NOT to be understood.

Lana, and yet you write beautifully. Don't forget Revel and Mysty's story.

Church lady, high fives her.

Bernita, Yep.

Angie, that's true. Someone in a different genre might not get what you're trying to do in your genre, but at least you should make the writing clear enough so that they have the possibility of understanding.

Steve, probably a good idea. Analyse it and it slips through your fingers some times.

JR. There is that immediate feedback thing. That's why I think even formal speaking is easier than formal writing.

Stella, I write poetry myself at times. I think poetry is more about communicating feelings than specifically ideas, but still it needs to get "that" point across. I think we're on the same wavelength. Thanks for visiting.

Ivan, lol. Been there, dude.

Leigh, I checked out your blog. Good stuff. I love your enthusiasm. Good to see.

Michelle, yes, I've written so much non-fiction lately that I haven't gotten much of that dose of mystery you're talking about. But I love that. It's like coming to a bend in a trail you're walking. There's a little excitement about what might be around that bend.

Julie said...

Oh, really good post this!

I'm an accidental writer - ghosted a ww2 bio and the beeb picked it up off the internet and based a docu on parts of it a few years ago.

Now learnin' from scratch...

All the very best, I'll come back here again, (One of Leigh's bloggers)

Julie said...

Thanks for calling by, appreciate it. I've hit the ground running with this one, with little prior knowledge of blogs. Leigh and her group have been brilliant.

Noted your comments - I have time on my hands at the mo, and accept mine will be a 'static' for occasional browsers; though I thought that about a previous photo website and that went exponential.!

Every best wish,

Julie

Lucas Pederson said...

I agree. One must know their own style and limitations. And they must know the language. Language of the readers. Great post buddy!

Travis Erwin said...

I agree, but what I really want to know is how to write in a way that makes communicating with my banker a more common and pleasant occurance.

Church Lady said...

Mary's getting your box ready.

Just thought I'd let you know...

Danette Haworth said...

Yeah, what lana said--ha!

My technical writing professors taught us that the first question a writer should ask when approaching any piece is Who is my audience?

katherine. said...

well said...

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, getting your point across is a bit vague a definition for me. I mean, in writing fiction, the point can be the story, the symbolism/metaphores, the theme, etc. Which one are we talking about here? Because I prefer the story to be obvious, and the theme to be buried except for the occasional bone showing in the dirt, while the symbolism and metaphore support the readers process of understanding, be it story or theme.

The reason I've never been able to read Joyce.