Paint Like a Writer

Very few of us are so gifted we can just sit and write without the benefit of learning from others. From time to time in “Within my Writes”, I like to share what I have learned on my writing journey.

Not long ago I read “Word Painting”, the revised addition, published in 2014, by Rebecca McClanahan.

It disrupted my game—but in a good way.

It reminded me of my seventh grade English class where I had tried to get by with my usual minimal effort. My classmates were brimming with grey matter and I felt like I’d been thrown into the deep end of the pool with deflated Swimmies. I learned quickly that what had worked for me in grade school wasn’t going to cut it with Mr. K. He demanded much more.

Mr. K. compelled us to study the art of effective writing. He made us work on plotting, characters, plot twists, descriptions and poetry. He pushed us to open our minds to see that through words, writers like H. G. Wells could even make us believe that invisibility was possible.

I never fully overcame my laziness that year. I was lucky to scratch out a “C” in the class and was happy to be done with that torture.

It wasn’t until I was receiving high marks in high school and college for creative writing, that I understood how much Mr. K had positively influenced my writing. I haven’t written a single book or short story without thinking about him and what he’d taught me.

In her book “Word Painting” Rebecca McClanahan provides vivid examples and techniques. She teaches us that writing descriptions is more than just describing what we see, hear, feel, smell or taste. She shows us how to see through the eyes of our characters and use vivid descriptions to bring those characters to life. And she shows us techniques for writing prose that captivate and delight readers.

Just as I didn’t like the lessons in Mr. K’s class, I don’t like the lessons in Ms. McClanahan’s “Word Painting” because she makes me work harder on my writing.

Thank you, Rebecca McClanahan and Mr. K.

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