Beginning Fiction Writer? Practice with Poetry!


            Here’s a piece of counter-intuitive advice for beginning fiction writers: practice with poetry!

            Fiction writers understand the need to show, not tell. They just don’t always know how to pull it off.

            Telling, of course, robs the reader of the joy of experience.

A beginner might write, “I was devastated by my mother’s death.”

            A more practiced writer shows the devastation: the frozen fingers that would never again flutter over the biscuit dough; the curly grey hair that would miss its monthly perm; the cold cheek that would no longer warm your own. You get the idea.

            Often, on the challenging road to showing, beginners fall into the ditch of telling.

            Poetry can help with that.

            Poetry is all about showing. Its emotional pull is assured because poetry never tells.

            Think of Williams’ red wheelbarrow, Oliver’s wild geese, Whitman’s noiseless patient spider.

            Practice with poetry. Its images will tell you the way to your own more perfect showing.

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