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Details: AKA mastering the basics

The craft of writing fights an invisible monster that takes many forms, from writer’s block to plot holes, and results in an underlying sense of impending doom in most writers. And the job of stringing words together is both complex and nitpicky. Innocent students, or anyone new to the trade, must adapt to the ruthless process of editing, too. In writing classes, we can submit lengthy assignments with a sigh, only to receive feedback with mountains of red ink on every paragraph. Timed writing exercises and grammatical eloquence might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but there are several elements of the field that carry beyond the pages of an essay.

Although grading is subjective, most writing teachers can describe “good” writing as that with a distinct voice. This voice is a distinctive method of executing ideas, usually through intertwining the five elements of writing: diction, detail, imagery, syntax, and tone. Owning a unique voice keeps audiences returning for more. People come for the author over the content because storytelling is a method of building a relationship via relatability.

Here’s an example of unique writing in the form of using the 5 senses:

“Stars spun across his vision and his head felt as if it were about to burst… With difficulty, Hanno undid the chinstrap and eased off his helmet. Cool air ruffled his sweat-soaked hair.”

The element of finding your “voice” doesn’t simply apply to writing. It applies to any form of communication. Art uses 7 principles: line, shape, color, texture, type, space, and image. Music uses even more principles (found here), and film can be described in 5. Each medium has its pros and cons (e.g. imagery is harder to convey through writing than film because the reader has to imagine what is described versus simply seeing it).

A very important commonality among medias cannot be missed here. The most respected or long-lasting examples in artforms go down to details. Just as a writer finds their voice through words, an artist develops style on their canvasses (such as Iris Scott’s innovative oil painting technique) or a director’s expert style of film shots (like Casey Neistat’s films). Think of the Lord of the Rings, a film trilogy that took around 10 years to produce with astounding levels of details mixed in. The Dark Knight Rises required painstaking prop creations. The Matrix redefined cinematography and film shots for generations to come.

How does this all tie together? Well, in order to be good at what you do, it takes mastering the basics, no matter the medium. Once you know the nature, design, principles, and laws by which a craft is structured, you can rearrange, stretch, or potentially break the principles to make something incredibly fresh. What medium do you tell your story? There are way more than those mentioned above. Sports? Clogging? Afghan knitting? No matter what you are conveying today, whether a college essay or a journal entry that never sees the light of day, try to familiarize yourself with the craft as much possible. It’ll take a super long time, but I think it’s worth it, and you’ll find your voice within the foundational elements, too.

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