Strengthen Your Writing: Think Like a Poet

November 13, 2013 in Guest Blogger

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Poetic language is important in all types of writing, and our guest today just happens to be my favorite poet. But despite my nagging, she has not set up a website to share her incredible talent with the rest of the world. Do me a favor and nudge her in the comments for me. :) So here’s a big welcome to Kelly Cammack! Thanks for being here to help us improve our writing through poetic devices.


Strengthening Your Writing by Thinking like a Poet

Quite a lot has been written about “showing not telling” as a way to engage readers in your story.  Kelley talks about it in Challenge # 3.  It is taught in every writing class I have ever taken.  It is absolutely true and vital if you want to be the kind of writer that people can’t put down.  The kind of writer that takes your readers breath away, has them stop mid-sentence as they consider the visual image you just created.  In this scenario you have engaged their senses and made them feel something very deeply. This is the part of the craft of writing that takes practice. Writing fresh metaphors and similes isn’t easy but it is necessary.  As is using concrete details, and that is what I want to talk about in this post

You have heard the saying “It’s all in the details”.  This is where good poetry excels and I believe this is where fiction writers can benefit from poetry.  Concrete details ground the reader in the

story.

Try this.  Describe what you had for dinner.  Here is an example that takes something that lays flat on the page and gives it life.

First attempt: I had a fried pork chop with mashed potatoes and salad.  Okay, I see a crispy hunk of meat on the plate with a lump of potato and some greens. Yum, not.

Try again:  I had a pork chop fried with onions and mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes with real butter and a salad of fresh greens. A little bit better, try again.

Third attempt: I had a pork chop that had been dredged in flour and a mixture of fresh thyme and marjoram picked from just outside my kitchen door.  I fried it in the skillet next to the mushrooms and onions until it was crisp on the outside and rosy pink inside.  I deglazed the pan with a cup of dry white wine adding a dollop of fresh cream at the last minute. Then I mashed the potatoes with warmed butter and cream and squeezed the cloves of roasted garlic into the mix and sprinkled chopped chives over the bowl…  By now I am sure you get my drift and hopefully you are a little bit hungry.

If you are telling me your main character walked up the stairs to her bedroom with a heavy heart.  I want to know that the silky banister felt like a warm arm under her hand, helping her up the last steps, how she stumbled on the third step like she always did, her toe finding the divot worn thin by generations,  that there was a faint sliver of light shining under the door that reminded her of sunrise.

My challenge to you; when you get to your rewrites add some poetic devices and show us how to feel something, don’t tell us.


KellyKelly Cammack has been an active writer since taking her first creative writing class in high school forty years ago. She mostly considers creative non-fiction and memoir to be her genre but more recently has added poetry to her resume. She lives on the East coast of Vancouver Island in the little seaside town of Comox, where the wet weather often drives her inside to write.


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4 responses to Strengthen Your Writing: Think Like a Poet

  1. Great post! Always good to remember the little details.

  2. Kelly,
    Great reminder about how important expressive words are to engage and enthrall the reader. I agree with Kelley – you need to start a blog to post your wonderful poetry. By the way, I’m hungry now! And not just for any ol’ Pork Chop – the one you made!

  3. Thanks Annette, it is those little details that place the reader right where you want them, in the middle of your story.

  4. Thanks Linda, I know. I have never made those pork chops but guess what I bought at the store the next day.