Monday, October 31, 2016

Writerly Tips From Edgar Allan Poe

Author Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

~ opening stanzas from The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe

It's that spooktacular time of year. That means it's time to celebrate Edgar Allan Poe. Whether you love his work or not, there are some writerly lessons to be learned from him.

Know the ending.
Poe says, "Let the writing have its beginning -- at the end." In other words, before you sit down to begin writing your next epic, know what the ending is going to be. If you keep the ending in view from the start, the story will flow naturally from beginning to end.

Write tight.
Poe was a big proponent of keeping the action moving and limiting your words. He said, “if any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression.” Of course if you're a novelist there's no way a reader can devour your book in one sitting. But be sure to make your scenes snappy, fast-acting, and always end with a cliff-hanger.

Choose your symbolism carefully.
In Poe's epic poem, The Raven, he first thought of having the repeated refrain (nevermore) come from the mouth of a parrot. But being that the poem is written with a melancholy tone in mind, he changed that to a raven, which is a bird of "ill omen." Do that. Decide on the tone of your story, then use symbolism that ties in with that theme.

Setting is a character.
Poe usually decided on setting last for this reason: to decide what would best compliment the mood of the story. He created his characters first and then created his setting as a character as well.

Try one or all of these techniques next time you sit down to write your Great American Novel -- whether it has a creepy theme or not.


Robin Mason said...

knowing the (general) ending is about the extent of plotting this pantzer can manage! although, I do go to great lengths to create my setting

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