Do you feel like your writing is dull and boring sometimes? In writing for the web have you forgotten how it feels to create a paragraph that gives your reader a vivid mental image and invokes emotion?
Today I’m going a bit off track and look at writing a little different. Web writing requires more precision than fiction writing, but not all writers are web writers. The internet is full of people who want to write fiction. Many of us web writers also dabble in fiction a bit. I actually started writing fiction and then discovered web writing.
I’ve recently been left with the feeling that my writing has become stale because I’ve almost forgotten how to be descriptive and how to paint an image for the reader to see.
For this reason, and in case you feel your writing has been stagnant, we’re going to take a visit down fiction lane. I’m going to build on a general idea or sentence and show how a play on words can bring your material to life.
Our example is the word ‘things’.
1. “We put things on the shelf.”
2. “We put statues on the shelf.”
3. “We put St. Francis statues on the shelf.”
4. “We carefully placed St. Francis statues on the shelf for display.”
Sentence 1 is very general and vague. It doesn’t tell the reader anything other than something was put on a shelf. The reader is sort of left hanging here because he/she now needs to come up with their own mental image of what the ‘things’ were.
Sentence 2 is a little better but it’s still vague and general. The reader does know we’ve put statues on the shelf, but again has to create their own mental image of what the statue looks like.
Sentence 3 is getting better. Now we’ve given the reader the mental image we want them to have; St. Francis. But the sentence is still bland, it has no emotion.
Sentence 4 shows the reader that we placed St. Francis on the shelf for display and by carefully placing him there we’ve given the reader a bit of emotion. The reader is now visualizing someone being careful (maybe a bit nervous) while they put St. Francis on the shelf. Our reader also sees a shelf full of St. Francis statues but he/she is still left hanging a bit. The reader wants a little bit of narrative to fully grasp what we want them to see.
Lets compare the two descriptions below:
1. “The shipment arrived last night. We opened each box to find a dozen things inside. We unwrapped them; they were pretty. We placed them on the shelf.”
2. “Our final shipment arrived sometime past midnight. With great precision we carefully opened each box. Inside each box were a dozen small garden figures, they had finally arrived for the spring sale next week. We gently unwrapped each statue from it’s delicate bubble wrap. Oh what things of beauty, we were so pleased with the quality of workmanship. We carefully placed the St. Francis statues on the shelf for display.”
The first set of sentences doesn’t tell the reader anything other than something has arrived and been placed on the shelf. There’s not much for the reader to visualize and there’s no emotion for them to feel.
The second set of sentences gives more information but it also gives the reader more visual images and even brings forward some emotion. “sometime past midnight” might convey to the reader that the crew is probably tired. But the next two sentences sparks a little more enthusiasm by telling the reader the crew was very pleased with their shipment. By the end of the last sentence we should have taken the reader from feeling the tiredness of the crew to feeling the crew’s excitement.
If you’re writing for the web and want to be short with your sentences and less descriptive you could rewrite the sentences like this:
“The shipment of St. Francis statues arrived last night. We carefully placed them on the shelf to display for next week’s sale.”
It pretty much states everything you want the reader to know but has very little emotion. It will work if you need a limited word count. However, if you have a personal blog you may want to add some descriptive writing to your blog and see how the readers react. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Just because we write for the web or a lot of technical stuff, doesn’t mean our writing has to be impersonal.