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Posts tagged ‘abstractions’

It’s raining concrete: the #1 rule of writing, Part 2 of 2

Over the years, I’d trained myself to be an observer of life’s details and to use those concrete details in my writing. (I do have an MFA in people watching). But I’d never done the opposite—never thought about turning details into abstractions as Ayn Rand suggests we do in her book The Art of Fiction.

I’m sure at some unconscious level, the details and abstractions ran parallel lives in my mind but I wasn’t consciously aware of them. I never thought, “What do the moles on my mother’s neck represent?”

While on vacation earlier this year, I sat on a white sand beach on the island of Kauai and thought about Rand’s advice. She suggests we practice seeing the abstractions within the concrete details in order to make our minds supple and easily able to notice both the abstractions or premises in our work and how to show them through details. Read more

It’s raining concrete: the #1 rule of writing, Part 1 of 2

I didn’t discover I was a writer until college when I fell in love with poetry. Fortunately for me, my first poetry professor was big on concrete. No, he didn’t have a weekend job laying sidewalks or foundations. But he did pound it into us that our effusive abstractions needed to be transformed into concrete images.

Some of my first poems were pure mush and raw emotion. When I blathered on about feeling lonely in a foreign country, he asked, “What color is lonely? What does lonely smell like? Was there a specific place or location or city where you felt the most lonely?” He explained that through the right details I could evoke those feelings in my reader.

I can still remember the rush of satisfaction when I finally captured the essence of that poem into specifics. Read more