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Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Power to Write: Exercises

"The Power to Write: A Writing Workshop in a Book" is an insightful volume for the person who wants to pick up a pen and start writing the moment the ink hits the paper. There are many--as I pointed out earlier--good things about this book. The exercises, however, are not one of them. The exercises appear vague and aimless at times. I am not saying this to sound mean or harsh, but things like, "Write a story that begins with a scene where you were feeling elated, but then something happened to make you sad, furious, or extremely frustrated" appear without point or reason, and may go a step farther to discourage the young writer with poor results. I completely understand the level of apprenticeship this book is supposed to address, but vague starting points always lead to vague endings, and in that sense this book suffers from an excess of exercises such as this one. There are some good ones, but then again, just one exercise after the aforementioned one, "Write a story that begins with a scene when you were so angry that you couldn't help expressing it in public, much to your great embarrassment later." Emotions are probably the hardest thing to convey in writing, especially since your readers depend so much on what you actually describe to attain the desired result. This points to another dilemma--why are writers like Dan Brown, and other popular ones, who are so successful do a dismal job at conveying emotion? I mean, take into consideration the fact that the reading level of such bestsellers is approximately in the sixth to seventh grade spectrum, and you find that the effort to convey real emotions in this type of book does in fact reach its intended audience.

Again, I am not trying to criticize without cause; I may be mean in other ways, but not that way. I will probably have another entry praising Ms. Adams' book, but until then, I am reluctant to pursue exercises like the above. The positive aspect of this book is that of placing importance on KEY PRINCIPLES of fiction writing. This part of the book is perhaps the most beneficial--a clear list-like plan to follow through and finish a draft of either a novel or a short story. The example stories for Key #5 and #6 were particularly discouraging to me. I, again, understand the aim of the book, but the fact that 1) when writing about emotion in characters Ms. Adams selects examples that go overboard with depicting emotions do not do the book justice. As a beginner, I feel these examples to be over-simplistic and leading me to try and imitate something that is not perhaps the best example possible. It isn't that Ms. Adams' book is not good, it is simply that is full of contradiction: great writing advice and poor examples and exercises.

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