When I was in college, I majored in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing. In this particular program, there was a further emphasis between fiction and poetry. Most of us majored in English with Emphasis in Creative Writing (Fiction), but we had to take some poetry classes and, speaking for myself, if I could have made a living writing poetry, I would have switched, because the poetry writing classes taught me how to play with words. And that is why I suggest fiction writers write poetry.
We’ve been given a gift in the English language. If you can, dear reader, I highly suggest looking into English language history, because it’s a beautiful story about its evolution and diversity. The English language, technically speaking, has no home. It’s made up of pretty much every other language in existence and was created alongside history. It’s a fascinating history and a fascinating language that’s, by its nature, constantly growing, changing, and evolving.
To be a writer, one needs to understand how words can paint a mental picture through sound, double meanings, and economy. Learning poetry writing challenges the writer to tell a story in a few lines, rather than a few pages. You have to think creatively and seek out words that can jolt the reader out of the average and expected. You have to get acquainted with a thesaurus to find words that aren’t typically used, words that draw attention to an idea through techniques like sound alike. If words sound alike, that automatically draws attention to the thought you’re making. There’s a different feel to fiction that’s strongly written with a sturdy foundation through thoughtful word choice than phrases and writing chunks that have no weight and are simply devices to describe a person or setting, for example, or just a bridge getting one part of the plot to the next. Through poetry writing, getting in the habit of really thinking about each word and its place in creating this world your story lives in can make you a stronger, and better, fiction writer.
If you want to read a fiction work that has real weight, where every word is there because it contributes to the story, read The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In about 79 pages, he packs in a story that would take most other writers probably 400 pages to tell. Your brain can’t take a vacation with this one. Every word matters and if your brain checks out while your eyes move, you’ll find out you’ve missed significant story.
Now, I’m not saying you have to write as weighty as Joseph Conrad did, but poetry writing makes the writer pay more attention to the words chosen for their economy and what the chosen words can add to the story and its meaning. If you want your readers to feel like reading your work is an adventure and not something that helps them go to sleep at night, something they don’t want to put down and not something they have to get through, I recommend learning how to make each word count and how to play with the language by writing some poetry. It can be the sing-songy greeting card kind that rhymes or something that relies more on rhythm and structure, whatever makes you dig deeper as a writer. The point is the poets can, and do, teach all of us about how powerful words are and, by learning from them, we can write better fiction. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
I’m the author of the Covenant Series, the first book, “Covenant,” is currently available at Smashwords and Lulu. I was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Texas, and currently live in rural Kansas. Somehow, I’ve managed to not be blown away by a tornado. My website, with links to my published books, is http://angelashafer.weebly.com