Using Poetry Techniques to Polish Your Fiction

Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Today's guest post is by John Smith, a blogger and aspiring writer.
Go check out his blog on writing!

--

A few years ago, I took a creative writing class that involved writing a 40-line poem. After finishing the poem, I went back and reread it. And you know what? It sucked. It felt like I just wrote a one-paragraph story and broke it down into 40 lines of text. There was no rhythm or sense of emotion. There wasn't even a single, simple rhyme. I realized that I had no concept of poetry.

At first I didn't care. I was never going to publish a poem. However, after the poetry assignment, our professor transitioned our lessons to writing short stories. Once he showed us how poetry can be used to write stories, I realized at least some level of poetic skill is needed to write great novels.

Let me tell you the two things I learned in that poetry lesson.

1. In a poem, every word counts.
Every … single … word. Poetry is like a 14-page story conveyed in 14 lines. Each word must express the mood and meaning, and gives it a certain impact. These words are called "energy" words. For example, let's say you're writing something about waking up and getting out of bed.

Ordinary, no impact:

I got out of bed

Now let's try it using words of "energy":

I exploded out of bedorI crawled out of bed

Each word counts. A single word can hold a lot of meaning and evoke the entire mood of a poem. This same concept applies to writing short stories and novels—you can build mood in a scene, dialogue, description, or chapter by careful choice of words.

2. Metaphors and similes can help you "show, don't tell." Using metaphors and similes also engage the reader's imagination and pull them deeper into the scene. Let's say you're writing about someone about to die:

She looked sickly and close to death

This writing directly tells the reader that the character is dying. Let's add a simile to show instead.

Her eyes peered at me like someone already in the grave.

As you can see, using techniques like similes and metaphors can add more impact to your writing. They can also draw more attention to it, so don't use metaphors/similes unless the moment calls for it. Otherwise you may be overwriting.

I learned other things from my poetry lesson, like rhyme and rhythm, but if you take just these two things, and apply them to your fiction, they will improve your writing.

--


Interested in exploring more how poetry can improve not just your writing, but your creative life? Check out Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen.

Or, start following Robert Brewer over at Poetic Asides.

Omeara_11:27

Going Viral: Writing From the Hopeful Heart

Author Kitty O'Meara shares her experience of going viral online and how that lead to some exciting publishing opportunities.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 27

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a what's next poem.

plot_twist_story_prompts_an_invitation_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: An Invitation

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, give a character an invitation.

Vintage WD_Conder Soule 11:26

Vintage WD: Poetry without Rhyme—Or Even Thees and Thous

In this article from 1977, children’s writer and poet Jean Conder Soule explores the question, “How will I know when I’ve written a poem?”

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a thankful poem.

Richard_11:24

Building Better Worlds: Five Tips to Guide Your Planning Process

Writer and WD editor Moriah Richard shares her top advice to help you fight world-building overwhelm and organize your story.

March_11:25

Why I Write Mysteries

Mystery writer Nev March shares how she found herself writing historical mysteries and what she hopes readers will get from her storytelling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exaggerated poem.

Chow_11:24

5 Tips on How to Write a Cunning but Cozy Mystery Novel

Author Jennifer J. Chow shares her expertise on what makes a great cozy mystery novel engaging and thrilling.