Five Ways Novelists Are Just Like Poets

I’m sharing a wonderful and informative post by my good friend, Louise, from her blog, A.B. Michaels and am honored to have been included in this comparison between novelists and poets.  She is the amazing author of a romantic series, Sinner’s Grove, The Art of Love, and The Lair, which are all available on Amazon. I encourage you to take the time to visit her site, http://abmichaels.com.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NE18GYY
http://www.amazon.com/Art-Love-Origins-Sinners-Grove-ebook/dp/B00K5C0JYA/
http://www.amazon.com/Lair-Sinners-Grove-Novel-ebook/dp/B00YYJT2G6/

The Lair by AB Michaels

A very good friend from my years in northern California is the poet Lauren Scott. (lscotthoughts.com). We are both writers, but while she writes pieces with minimal words, I write full-length novels. Not much overlap, right? Wrong. The truth is, long-form writers and poets have quite a bit in common:

We both love words. I mean love them. I know that even though she may write a first draft intuitively, Lauren considers every single word that goes into every single poem she writes. Is it conveying the emotion I want it to? Is it describing the scene I’ve created as well as it could? Does it sound right next to the other words I’ve chosen?
As a novelist, I do the same thing, except that I have a bit more latitude, because my readers are kind enough to give me ample space to set my scene, introduce my characters, tell my story, and so forth. But sometimes, having all that leeway causes “bloviating,” as one television commentator calls it. I simply write too much and have to get rid of the excess. Sometimes that’s painful. Sometimes, for the sake of the story, I have to say goodbye to a bit of writing I love very much. My guess is, sometimes Lauren has to say the same goodbyes. With such a short form within which to share her vision, she can’t afford to have even one word that doesn’t work for her.
BOOK COVER FINAL 1.26.15

Our words must tell a story. Novelists like me have hundreds of pages in which to tell their story; poets like Lauren measure the length of their work in lines, not pages. Yet we must both serve the same master: the story.
I so admire the discipline that Lauren and other poets use to shape their work, that I thought I’d share a writing exercise that fiction writers sometimes use to fine tune their editing chops. The general term for it is “flash fiction” and those of you who like poetry might also follow flash fiction writers.
I subscribe to a writing blog written by Morgen E. Bailey (she’s a writer in the U.K.) https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/flash-fiction-fridays/ and she regularly publishes examples of very short fiction (less than 500 words) and better yet, six-word stories. That’s right. Six words. Even Lauren’s poetry has more than six words!

The key to this exercise is that your six words must tell a story.

“She had a new blue cell.” Is there a story there? Meh.

“The cell beeped and she screamed.” A story? Possibly. As readers, we wonder, why did she scream? Who was calling her that she should have such an extreme reaction? Is she in danger now? Yeah, but maybe she just wasn’t used to the sound and that’s all it was. Not much of a story after all.

“The cell’s silence lacerated her heart.” Not great, but best of the bunch, I think. We imagine something intense is going on with the woman; she’s experiencing a profound sadness because someone on the other end of that cell isn’t calling. There’s a story there. Both Lauren and I look for the story and try to tell it the best way we can.

We seek an emotional response. Okay, so the beeping cell that caused the woman to scream? Maybe it’s a story, maybe not. Let’s say it is. Are we emotionally invested? We might surmise the woman’s in danger, but do we really care enough about her at this point? I don’t (but maybe I’m cold and heartless!). In example three, however, the reader has a sharper sense of what’s going on. We don’t know the details, but we wonder. And we empathize. In short, we connect. Lauren strives for that response from the reader and so do I.
We strive to capture the imagination through imagery. In long form, this is a matter of style. Some writers take great pride in their descriptive ability; they love to use metaphor and simile to describe character, setting or emotion. Others feel their work is best served by keeping such word play to a minimum. I’m somewhere in the middle. Too much of “The willows undulated like dancers in a riverfront’s far flung chorus line” takes me away from the story; too little leaves me feeling like I’ve just eaten unbuttered toast. I strive to keep the right balance in my writing.
For poets like Lauren, however, capturing the reader’s attention through vivid imagery is their stock in trade. Since they work with so few words, they have to make virtually every word do some heavy lifting. Here’s an example from Lauren’s poem, “Pillow”:

It’s not the best night
for a mutual agreement
instead my stomach
entertains a live
basketball game
where thoughts dribble
and strategy is weak
You ask about the score?
It’s looking like a blowout,
not in my favor

©2015 Lauren Scott

I can perfectly picture what Lauren’s protagonist is going through, thanks to her basketball game metaphor. I too look for ways to bring the idea I want to get across through vivid images.

We want our readers to take something away from the experience. Let’s face it – most writers, even if their main goal is to entertain, consider it a bonus if their readers walk away with something – a thought, a feeling, a new way of looking at some aspect of life, a nugget they might remember and mull over after they’ve read the last line or the last page. Consciously or not, we interject theme into our work, that underlying takeaway. It’s our way of saying, “Hey, this is what I think or feel or wonder about this subject, and I’d like to share it with you.” Poets and writers of any form have this trait in common. It’s what keeps us tapping away.
Are you a poetry lover? Have you ever used that form to express yourself? What other similarities do you see with longer forms of writing? I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. Lauren’s books of poetry are available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Xlibris (links are below)

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Finding+a+Balance+Lauren+Scott
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/new-day-new-dreams-lauren-scott/1117050670?ean=9781483685687
http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0140289049/New-Day-New-Dreams.aspx

(ALL proceeds will be donated to The Chris Klug Foundation to help spread the importance of becoming an organ donor; to offer second chances on life.)

Out of the Blue

Before darkness settled in and sun bid farewell
I took a drive not far from home going fairly slow
What happened next I’m reluctant to tell
Yet the story has been told; others already know
She darted out from nowhere I did see
to this day I wonder how it all could be

Poor little one was naive though surely in control
She was unaware of the danger lurking outside
Her cries echoed through my heart and soul
Provoking tears and sadness deep inside
We simply met at the wrong time and place
And departed with my many prayers of grace

I wish to rewind that awful hour in my day
To save an innocent doe from unwanted sorrow
Let a little one run freely and be on her way
For a much, much brighter tomorrow
The suffering is over now but images aren’t kind
They lie still so fresh in my mind

Lauren Scott © 2015

(This happens all the time where we live because deer are in abundance. Many people don’t like them because they eat the gardens. Well, yes, I suppose that is an annoyance but I’m a little different. I love watching them walk gracefully down the street and always hope that car and deer don’t meet. After many years of living here, my car has never come in contact with one. This time though, the deer hit me on the left front side by the headlight. She was tossed into the gutter, hurt very badly and suffered about an hour before she was put out of her misery. I knew it wasn’t my fault. She truly did fly out of a backyard on my left side, out of the blue, and into my car all in a matter of seconds. But it was a very heartbreaking hour and I wouldn’t leave until she was taken care of…sadly this happens so often that it’s not a big urgency. We live in their territory and they are the innocent ones..)

Fulfillment

Believing in our union is a strong belief in love
Its power, emotions and all its glory permeate us
Communication and compromise are love’s glue
among the beautiful melody of three words, “I love you”

Love weaves its way through dreams of us together
Eyes say all without words and all needed to be heard
The promise in their colors show love in the heart and
the excitement of love flickering as it did from the start

If you believe in love’s passion then whisper your desire
let me show you all my love can give and let us stoke the fire

 

Lauren Scott © 2015

Summertime

colors 3

Soft serve on a cone
Hot dogs at the fair
Popcorn at the movies
Adventures if we dare
Bikes on the streets
Longer days to play
Sunscreen on our noses
for a hike on any day
Surfers on a wave
Towels on the sand
Parties in the pools
Dancing to the band
Moonlit strolls for lovers
Cool drinks with lime
Oh, how we love you
Sweet, sweet Summertime

Lauren Scott © 2015
(Hope you’re enjoying summer!)
♥ ♥

 

A Knock on Your Door

When your hair shines like a silver coin
and your age is no longer twenty-one,
when your only hope is simply to remember
and not merely to follow the sun,
will you be grateful for the morning light
when your body has broken in diverse ways
or will you fear the changes fallen upon you
and dread the time in your days?

Lauren Scott © 2015

Awakening

She rose with languid movements
and when the sun greeted her
through billowing curtains
she recalled the dream
that rocked her through the night,
a dream that didn’t become
broken pieces of wishes,
a dream that remained,
sensations that were felt,
yet confusion ran through her veins
even though vivid images played
again and again in her mind,
images that were whole
and so she wondered

Lauren Scott © 2015