I have started working again at Creative Communication, and I am enjoying every minute of it. I used to dread the essays, because it usually meant a whole lot of grammatical problems, book reports, and boring essays about some dumb historic event. I loved the creative aspect of poetry, and I loved that I could whip through a packet of 200 instead of greuling over a packet of 300-word essays. But now...I've had a change of heart.
While poetry is unique, quick and generally picturesque, I love finding the gems hidden in the stacks of essays. Just today, I read about a student's trip to Italy where she would be staying with her grandmother. The way the scene was set blew me away. I loved the details that filled the essay: the elderly woman's brown skin, designed with wrinkles; the details of the stairs that led to her familiar bedroom, and the smells of cigarettes and pasta: the smells of Italy.
It's details like these that make an essay fantastic (these, by the way, make it to the list to be eligible for prize money). I remember an essay I read several days ago about a girl who spied on her scary neighbor. Although her backyard was marshy and filled with strange-looking weeds and flowers, the old woman cared for them tenderly, giving the writer a feeling that humanized the "monster" who lived next door.
It is so important to realize that fantastic writing creates a vivid image, whether it's feelings, sights or smells. Using our senses creates a connection to the story, and makes it something we want to always remember. When writing, paying attention to the smallest detail can have tremendous influence on the greatness of the story. Don't just write: take me there with you.
One story I have become obsessed with lately is called "Swamp Children" by James Colton.
Read "Swamp Children" here!
The thing that made this story so compelling to me was that it felt as if I were there. The conversation between characters was so realistic, the voice was so strong, and the real-life feeling to the suspense was fantastic. One of my most favorite books is "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King.
This is one of those books that isn't outright terrifying, but you're on edge, knowing that something is going to happen. This book is about a young girl who gets separated from her family on a hiking trip. As she makes short cuts to catch up, she ends up finding herself hopelessly lost, but she knows that if she just follows the river, it'll eventually lead her down the mountain...until she finds that it just leads her into a creepy swamp area. It's terrifying that she finds herself walking through knee-deep swamp, and there was just something about that part of the book that really fascinated me. James Colton's story, then, immediately compelled me to read it simply because of the title, and it was just as satisfying of a story as Stephen King's story was.
Really fantastic writing is, of course, left up to the reader to decide since different things touch us differently. For me, however, intimate details that most people take for granted are the ones that really suck me into stories...or even essays. By finding myself in a character (or author's) shoes, the essay or book becomes a part of me, and that's what makes it so fantastic.