Put the 'wow' factor in your writing

How do you put the ‘wow’ factor into what you write? I have discovered that the Style Guide™ is fantastic for doing this. I have watched how writing takes on a warmer, more approachable tone as the writing is shifted from one part of the grid to another.

So let’s take a look at a simple paragraph.

“My hands reached across the desk and gripped the pen so hard it slipped and hit the ink well. Ink spilled everywhere. All of a sudden a blot of blue spread out in various hues of colour. The desk sat in the middle of the room and was very badly stained.”

At first glance, there appears to be nothing wrong with this. We can see the desk, the spreading ink and the hands gripping the pen.

But it doesn’t feel quite right, does it?

The Style Guide™ agrees. When submitted, this passage went off the grid on the far top end to the right. There are reasons for this.

The first is the cliché. These come in many forms: ‘All of a sudden’ is a phrase we encounter all the time. It is over used, old and, although it describes what happened, it tells the reader that the writer could not think of a creative way to lead into the description that follows. With ‘all of a sudden’ in our example, the piece of writing does not even register on the grid. If we delete it, we at least get the Style Guide™ to show a result with the cursor outside the grid and way up to the right. So we have gone part way toward fixing the problems the Style Guide™ indicates exist.

The next thing I would look at is the hands. Most people know that hands are always attached to people so what is wrong with saying the ’My hands reached across the table?’

When parts of the body are mentioned in isolation the first image a reader gets is of that body part acting independently of the body. So hands grip throats, eyes roll and feet stamp on the floor. All are detached from the body, yet in reality body language is a combination of movements.

In my example ‘my hands’ have detached themselves from my arms and darted across the desk to grip the pen. Usually the reason for using this type of sentence structure is to add dramatic effect. This is a reasonable thing to do. However, it will only work if the body comes along too.

So the revision would read: I reached across the desk and gripped the pen so hard it slipped and hit the ink well. Ink spilled everywhere..."

Now to the next sentence: “The desk sat in the middle of the room and was very badly stained.”

With this construction, the desk becomes isolated and what it actually looks like is hard to imagine because the visual cues are so few.

We know ink is spreading over it. We assume it is a wooden desk but it could just as easily be glass or plastic. We don’t know what colour it is either. Is the stain a result of the spreading ink or is the staining the result of time?

So how would it read if I revised it so that it sat in the grid?

“I reached across the desk and gripped the pen so hard it slipped. Ink spilled eveywhere. A document giving my house away sat in front of me. I clenched the pen, regretting the night of gambling. As I pressed the pen into the paper it broke and ink pooled out over the paper forming a thin blue stream that aready funnelled along scratches in the wood and fell like a waterfall onto the carpet below.”

I have added extra words. The picture is clearer, we understand why the writer is using the pen and that he or she probably has a gambling problem. We also learn that the narrator is regretting losing his or her house. The re-write is connected to objects, is visual and it has landed on the grid over to the left. Those extra words are worth adding to ground the story and to make it multi-dimensional. There is also a hint of a problem with the law in the reference to the thin blue line.

The story could go in any direction, but this is how I re-worked what I had written to get it onto the grid. There are any number of word combinations that would have got the piece into the Style Guide™. Why not experiment with a piece of your own writing. Start by writing a piece that goes off the grid then work on it and watch how its energy changes as you get it onto the grid. It is fun!


Absolutely yes, submit as many pieces of writing you want and if you have any questions come back to me....suraya@thestorymint.com
The key is to avoid cliches like the plague, keep adverbs to a minimum and work on finding your voice. That is really important. Good luck and keep in touch.