Do You Write Stories or Observations or Both? – Cidney Swanson

Do You Write Stories or Observations or Both?

This past weekend, I was a presenter at the first annual Wordcrafters in Eugene conference where we were very focused on craft. (Where I also got the Best Swag Ever: a spa robe!)wordcrafters_swag

When I prepare for workshops or intensives, I often find myself revisiting some of my old writing, which leads me to ponder my writer-ly habits and traits.

When I was a kid, I wrote stories.  Lots of stories. They had inciting incidents, escalating events, a climax, and a resolution. I didn’t know these terms back then, but I read lots of books, and reading taught me this particular order of events was a satisfying one for readers.

Then, when I grew older and took creative writing classes and joined critique groups, I wrote description. Carefully, lovingly observed descriptions of the natural world, anatomies of conversations as they really happened, observations involving all five senses.

I don’t want to make it sound like either of these types of writing was more important than the other. In fact, it strikes me that both are valuable. For a teller of tales, it’s critical that you learn how to accurately describe the world around you or the world you imagine. And it takes lots of practice. Maybe this is the equivalent of practicing scales for a pianist or vocalist? On the other hand, most of us who want to hear someone playing piano won’t listen to a skillful demonstration of scales.

So, as a writer, I have to get really good at description. I have to practice it. I have to understand it. But, in the end, I have to tell a story, too. 100,000 words of description does not a novel make.

So that got me curious: Anyone else have this experience of having written stories first and then switching to writing description?

4 Replies to “Do You Write Stories or Observations or Both?”

  1. I’m not a writer but I do go back and read stories and get more out of them sometimes. Sometimes when your reading you get caught up in the action and tend to not take in the description.
    Another good author that writes a story and his description can’t be ignored is James A. Michener and Louis L’Amour. IN fact what made their novels so great was the description and the story wasn’t too bad either.

  2. You’re supposed to write description? (just kidding) I often get impatient when I read description that goes on too long, so I keep it to a minimum in my writing. I probably should revisit that principle.

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