The On Writing Anthology
Stage 3: Find something you love almost as much as writing and write about it.
Personality states that we can nurture. knowledge and emotions can make changes to our nature. These temporary changes are called personality states. This takes commitment, energy, persistence and conscientiousness. Personality states are required to creating well-crafted books, as described in the essay “Say what you can say”. A writer’s personality, experience, and feel will create a story, enabling them to write a masterpiece unique to them. Personality traits are a comfort zone. It is where we’re strongest. We can use knowledge and emotions to leave it for personality states, but this takes commitment and energy. Five facets describe the structure for writing personality traits.
Whether or not they are aware of it, writers will develop a process and structure for writing based on the personalit traites nature has blessed them with. Whatever approach writers favour, these personality facets will let them know where they are when writing. This is the subject of this essay.
Writers also need the personality states that we can nurture. We can be persistent and conscientious about creating well-crafted books, as described in the essay “Say what you can say”.
To write a masterpiece, we need a theme. Universal topics, such as society, inclusion, government, choice, politics and humanity are recommended for finding themes. Issues that speak to our inherent nature answer eternal questions or raise questions that we had always asked in different ways. Our themes should let us write about what is fundamentally relevant to society and people. These themes craft the premise of the story.
When we write our masterpiece, make it resonate with experiences from our world. The most common way to do this is to ask“what if” questions. Our writing can answer questions such as how things would be different if the First World War never ended or what is unconditional love. See How Can Orwell’s Demons Inspire Our Love For Writing? for further explanation.
Love of words should stop us from using clichéd expressions. Similarly, our developing curiosity should prevent us from using clichéd ideas or producing populist propaganda. For a discussion on cliches, see Is saying, “that’s a cliché” clichéd.
Recipe for crafting ideas into a theme or premise
There are no recipes for making ideas into a takeaway, but there are no rules either, so here is a recipe:
- Use our inquisitive minds to find problems that we’d like an answer to, such as:
- Why would there be a need for humans when computers can do everything better? – Kenneth Vickery Fleeing (unpublished) or
- What would be needed to get the person of your dreams to say you were all their favourite people rolled into one? – Kenneth Vickery, Poppy.
- If the question is in your mind, have faith that, like Sherlock Holmes, the insights will come when you need them.
- Embed the problem you want to solve in the story. This will whet your appetite as well as the appetite of the reader.
- When you have made insights, join the dots between your answers and their context. You don’t have to think we’re connecting the dots to be good at it. Being human, this is what we do.
- As with food, timing is everything for ideas. Don’texpect people to eat when they are not hungry—the story circling around the insight will create interest.
- Leave it for your reader to discover insights for themselves through dialogue or the story’s arc
- Don’t let your plot overcook your ideas as Michael Crichton did in his climate change denying book “State of Fear”. When his main character believed in global warming, only bossy women were interested in him. When the protagonist realised global warming was a hoax, he became irresistible to rich and beautiful women.
When crafting our masterpiece, fleshed-out characters can be fleshed out using the story, dialogue, thoughts, feelings, decisions,.reactions to others, and how others respond to them. For example “Listen nipper, you got to have a go at it. Even if you know you can’t bloody win you still got to have a go. You’ll always be pissin’ into the wind but that don’t mean it isn’t worth givin’ it a burl.” – George Johnston My Brother Jack.
Creative writing groups are good at pointing out where we have forgotten to write down enough of these natural insights.
Our characters will develop and adapt to action or dialogue, fear or wonder, and confrontation or cooperation as our story’s events unfold.
As writers, we should exercise the “right” to be pitiless, merciless, coarse, and barbarous. We should love our characters, but we need to threaten them with extreme and emotional situations. Countering our agreeableness, like this, is how we find weaknesses and strengths in our characters. Our plots are only needed when they achieve this.
For readers, stories will only come alive when they can get in someone else’s shoes. Reading about characters and their actions should bind them to our story. This is essential to write a masterpiece, as just reading facts becomes boring.
Our characters should be fleshed out enough for our readers to recognise if they walked through their door. Bringing our characters to life means giving them a presence with thoughts, opinions and history. Well-crafted characters don’t rely on the plot to be interesting.
Readers should empathise with strong reactions to our characters. They should love or hate them, admire or feel sorry for them, be interested or revolted, mistrust, or believe in them.
Describing traits such as their self-esteem will let readers into the heads of our characters. Readers should feel their struggle and understand their internal and external conflicts. This should make it feel as if the characters driving us to write our masterpiece forward are real.
All writers can increase their state of introversion to imagine internal fantasy worlds. Being a thinking introvert is creative as well. People with a high, natural level of thinking introversion don’t suffer aversions, such as social events.
The key to active imagination is restraining the conscious waking mind from exerting influence on internal images as they unfold. When we enter into the writing process, it helps to brush thoughts away with a feather until the imagined drama is enacted before our eyes. Observe the imagined scene, watching for changes to avoid filling the unfolding drama with conscious desires.
Writing a masterpiece requires us to trust our readers’ intelligence. It does not shove the world of the story down a reader’s throat. Over-influenced with a sense of place, writing can be immature, with a broken rhythm and pace. Writing shouldn’t make it hard for our readers to understand the world created in our story, either. If we can solve these contrasting requirements, we are on our way to becoming great writers.
”… In Augusta they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is “What would you like to drink?” ― John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
To maintain our writing’s rhythm and pace, creating worlds should be done in a few words. It can’t appear blatant and should be as seamless as possible, preferably using feelings for or reactions to the place rather than physical descriptions. To avoid losing the aesthetic quality of our story, good places to imbed the created world are:
- the types of characters in the story and their feelings about the place;
- the arc of the plot and what the theme is relevant to;’
- how the world impacts the action;
- the atmosphere the narrative creates; and
- making our characters’ voice and language consistent with the time and place of our story.
For instance, “If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, “What’s your business?” In Macon they ask, “Where do you go to church?” In Augusta they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is “What would you like to drink?” ― John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Readers want a plot that keeps them engaged. The trick is to know how to be brutal while creating hope.
Writers can’t ignore the plot any more than they can ignore character development. The plot is the skeleton that holds the story together. Readers will expect events that transition between a beginning, a middle and an end. When writing a masterpiece, for example, we can’t have disappointing endings.
Well-read writers may introduce these plot elements organically and only consider the plot at the editing stage. Still, all writers should look the plot elements up at some stage and ensure they are incorporated into their masterpiece.
All writers can use a high conscientiousness state to creative plot twists and surprises, which intrigue readers, such as “My gosh, Nick, why are you so wonderful to me?’
He was supposed to say: You deserve it. I love you.
But he said, ‘Because I feel sorry for you.’ – Gillian Flynn Gone Girl
Our books appeal is a reasoned analysis of beauty and not as prone to cultural influences as taste. This analysis has lead to universally beautiful qualities for writing.
Beautiful words, written without high levels of taste, use a heightened state of extraverted thinking. Dabbling with words is an extrovert trait. As grammar is teeming with infinite potential and possibilities, writers accessing their extrovert personality will edit until their work complies with aesthetic qualities. See the six examples below.
Expertise or virtuosity.
Will readers recognise and admire our grammar, clarity, word choices, tone and style?
Practising reading and writing is the best way to make our writing admirable. Aim for short, direct and straightforward sentences, active language, and engaging paragraphs. Still, it is worth getting professional editing and proofreading.
Words gather overtones of meaning over time. Choosing words or phrases will pay homage to all the ways they have been plied. These should enhance our theme and evoke the tone and style of writing our masterpiece.
Does the voice we develop, writing our masterpiece, fit with our promise to our readers. Has our book satisfied the rules of composition that place it in a recognisable style or genre?
Readers will look for beauty in our author’s voice, which can be succinct with short, curt sentences or have sweeping poetic ones. Readers may want sentences soaked in descriptive adjectives or a more minimalistic approach. They may look for figurative or want a literal language style. For example, “Right!” said Jock, and grasped his hand. “There’s me worrd. You can rely on me to bring him up like he wuz me awn soon, cos then I wawn’t have to pay him wages — see?” Xavier Herbert, Capricornia.
3. Reveal, don’t present
How can writing our masterpiece reveal enough to let readers judge and interpret the book’s characters and premise?
Show don’t tell is the popular way of saying this. Presenting or telling is similar to writing a resume. Here we don’t want the reader to have an opportunity to criticise. Discussing work with a friend over coffee is revealing or showing. There is no need to convince and persuade. In fact, we can be self-denigrating, hoping they will disagree, which is similar to a book having an unreliable narrator.
4. Experience of reading
Does wring our masterpiece let the reader set aside ordinary life and dramatically focus on the experience of reading?
One paradox of fiction is how readers can respond with intense emotions, even though they know the scenario is fiction. Appraisals of intrinsic pleasantness, familiarity, and novelty can court the aesthetic emotions of readers. These emotions may be universal reactions such as fear, wonder or sympathy, or related to individual taste, such as feelings of the sublime, the beautiful, and the kitsch.
Different book genres arouse particular emotions in readers. For instance, the horror genre should induce feelings of fear or disgust; comedies evoke amusement or happiness, tragedies empathy or sadness, and romance arouses pity and grief.
A masterpiece should be the aesthetic oneness of opposites. The book, the writing and the reader combine to make the story. This oneness can be the irruptive source of much of what is uncanny in modern life.
5. Access to our character
Can reading our book make readers feel they are in the shoes of our characters?
Another paradox is that although readers can imagine a far-fetched fictional world, they can’t accept different moral standards. This is called imaginative resistance.
To walk in our character’s shoes, readers must identify with their moral standards. Immoral main characters, such as Alex – Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange are rarely successful. To achieve this success, Burgess had to imbue Alex with seductive charisma and aspirational taste.
Writers often employ an amiable character, such as Dr Watson, to access an extreme character such as Sherlock Holmes. It is alright for readers to dismiss, as unacceptable, uncanny, frightening or inferior personalities. However, as writers, we should empathise with all our book’s characters. Even when they are too wondrous like Sherlock Holmes or too hideous, like Tom Buchanan — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
6. Minimum description length:
Have we taken the reader’s subjectivity into account and not insulted their intelligence?
The most pleasing description is the shortest one, as long as it gives the reader meaning., This has face validity but is also a finding of algorithmic information theory.
Words don’t often mean the same on their own as they do in context. With the reader’s subjectivity, many words needed without a context become extraneous in a book:
A plea for brevity is in many writing guides. George Orwell’s third rule of writing –Politics and the English Language, is:”If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.””
Political inspirations are not a blessing, but they are not a curse either. They are a product of our history. George Orwell, for example, became a political writer after experiencing tyranny in the Spanish civil war. We do not need newsworthy trauma to become a political writer. Still, it would need charismatic writing that not many writers possess.
My political motivation came as a result of what a magnet I have been for bullies. As with all political issues, using anger and hatred to write about bullying didn’t facilitate change. Charisma was needed, but I wouldn’t have been a magnet for bullies if I had had some. “Doing them like a Donald: is my latest attempt to show it is powerful to maintain a presence when faced with bullying. Now, at least, I can show leadership and write about it without anger or hatred.
Stories with passion and pace can arouse emotions to give credibility to a writer. It is like someone in a crowd pointing and saying, “look at that.
Compelling prose can contain rhetorical questions, sound confident, invent creative lists or metaphors, be contemporary and have a voice and language appropriate for readers. This signals a writer’s skills and can convince readers to change opinions or behaviour. But there is no recipe for influencing readers. Doing these things can also make writers seem needy.
The world of a book allows readers to step into a state away from cultural influences and their conforming impact. Readers can imagine being part of something greater than themselves and explore ideas as if coming to them for the first time.
The books ability to elicit emotions may enhance this effect. For example, fear seems to increase acceptance of a theme, while romance or lust reduces it.
Stepping into the world of a book can, for some readers, focus on their exploring, accepting, and integrating their repressed and rejected selves. To reunite our lost dreams, we must make the unconscious conscious. “Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.”– Carl Gustav Jung Psychology of the unconscious. This is similar to the concept of spiritual oneness.
A charismatic writer has the power to convince and persuade with words to rally readers to a cause. The concept is so complicated, psychology can’t agree on a definition. The normative influence motivates readers to belong to a group. Charisma can satisfy this need and persuade them to accept the views of a credible writer.”Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” – George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones.
A paradox for charismatic writing is that charisma requires total commitment, or the work reads falsely and insincerely. All total commitment leads to partial knowledge, which means the argument will lack nuance and is more likely to be wrong.
We shouldn’t spurn charisma for its cherry-picking ways. This would leave the power of story to those committed to dismissing, distorting, distracting, and dividing. Good political writing should push the envelope of world understanding and rally people to strive for the kind of inclusive society that we should be.
What are your legs? Springs. Steel springs. What are they going to do? Hurl me down the track. How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard. How fast are you going to run? As fast as a leopard! Then let’s see you do it!”– Jack Bennett, Gallipoli, The Novel.
Leadership in writing is a social influence, which is coordinating curious readers towards personal or collective ambitions. This is called informational influence. Such as “What are your legs? Springs. Steel springs. What are they going to do? Hurl me down the track. How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard. How fast are you going to run? As fast as a leopard! Then let’s see you do it!”– Jack Bennett, Gallipoli, The Novel.
Readers will seek leadership on issues, when they are uncertain. Uncertainty can occur because the subject is ambiguous, such s will artificial intelligence be a future disaster or a boon for humanity. There is also social disagreement, such as how we should treat refugees. Finally, uncertainty can just be ignorance, such as a society’s knowledge of the historical treatment of its first nation people. Readers can accept information in our book as evidence for a thesis. Writers do not need to persuade to show leadership.
Aesthetic ethics enhances leadership. This refers to the belief that beauty and attractiveness ought to govern ethical behaviour. The unity of aesthetics and ethics is reflected in being “fair”—the word meaning both attractive and just. Aesthetic ethics can express values, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviours to live in harmony with oneself, others, and the natural environment.