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David Farland On How To Write Vivid Scenes

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Author David Farland describes a kind of writing as 'heightened language' and tells how to craft vivid writing.


"So how do you write a “hyper-real” scene?

There are several keys.

  1. Select unconventional images to propel the scene forward.
  2. Appeal to powerful emotions such as love, fear, anger, guilt, and so on.
  3. Be careful to apply your poetic sensibilities to every line.
  4. Make sure that you appeal to all of the senses.

Now, on point number one, when I say that an image is unconventional, I simply mean that I’m looking for something out of the ordinary. For example, let’s say that your character gets a knock at the door and opens it to find someone behind it, a salesman in a bowler hat. That’s kind of tame.


What if we change it up? What if instead of getting a knock at the door, he hears thuds at the door, as if someone is hitting it with his shoulder? What if instead of a salesman, your character finds a heavily bearded homeless man in an Army jacket that reeks coffee and of old sweat—one with terrified eyes, who is holding a pitchfork as if he’s ready to run the protagonist through.


Do you see how an unconventional encounter can be a bit more riveting than something standard? And how it immediately hits you as so strange that it feels like a dream?


Remember to try to make strong appeals to multiple senses. By this I mean, if you’re a writer who is great with visual imagery, don’t rely just upon strong visuals. Make sure to give us powerful sounds, or to appeal to scent or touch, and so on. This often requires you to dig deeply into yourself, to really struggle to master your craft.


As you write in a hyper-real style, it has several powerful effects upon your reader. First off, it engrosses the reader, so that they become glued to your manuscript. As you create your images using heightened language, the reader also becomes more comfortable, more confident in your abilities as a writer and more willing to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the tale. Most importantly, those tales that use these methods tend to stick with the reader long after they’ve read the story, becoming a permanent part of their psyche."


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