W riting can’t be taught, say the purists. Bullshit. Style can’t, maybe, that mashup of all that is your experience and denial and love. But writing? No more esoteric than magic.
Here’s 15 ½ ways to turn your writing into wonder.
But swear an oath: never to reveal the secret of literary illusion to a non-writer, without first swearing them to the writer’s oath, and never to perform any of these literary illusions without first practicing the effect until you can write well enough to maintain the illusion of magic. Unless you’re a serious post-modernist. Post-modernists have no honour.
First, the half-secret: You.
The best and first rule: You do not talk about fight club. No wait. Here it is: Don’t follow rules if you don’t have to. Eventually rules and non-rules equal your style. Listen to this opening line from Nancy Hale in the short story “Those Are As Brothers”:
“The long, clear American summer passed slowly, dreaming over the Connecticut Valley and the sound, square houses under the elms and the broad, living fields, and over the people there that came and went and lay and sat still, with purpose and without, but free; moving in and out of their houses of their own free will, free to perceive the passage of the days through the different summer months and the smells and the sun and the rain and the high days and the brooding days, as was their right; without fear and without apprehension.”
Breaks every rule in the book, and a few new ones besides. Shouldn’t work. We’ll take a look at those rules. But for now, just know that Ms. Hale wrote and edited for Vogue and the New York Times, and wrote the bestselling novel The Prodigal Women, and her stories were published in the New Yorker (in 1961 alone, 12 stories). So.
That’s your half secret.
Next Secret: Feel.