“It is soft; it is white; it is light.”
We spent the day, Saturday, at the World Forestry Museum here in Portland and as I waited in line for my daughter to get face paint (it was a special offering as part of girl day at the museum) I read about an experiment conducted in Italy. They wanted to compare the language used by pre-school age children with that of artists.
I was intrigued by this experiment and its findings. What I took away was that language is formed by use and then becomes directed primarily toward that purpose. So that, when we describe tissue for example, we say it is for blowing our nose. But when children or an artist describe tissue they see how light travels through it, how it floats in the air, how it moves when twisted.
Poetic language is therefore both helpful and distracting in fiction writing. We have all read passages that immediately paint a picture using very few words. Instinctively I believe we still, for example, react to tissue paper on this gut level. Our senses know that it is soft and light and white, at the very same time as we are pulling it from the box to simply blow our nose. If we slow down our writing by describing everything in these terms we can take away from the story itself. For example –
The tissue she pulled from the square, harsh, Kleenex box felt like it would blow away at any moment. Could it really catch the ocean of warm, salty tears flowing from her eyes?
On the other hand, sometimes we can use an image to quickly express an idea so that it actually speeds up our
It was as if her mother had just pulled the dress from a Kleenex box.
I have remarked before that I frequently get so caught up in everyday life that I forget to observe what is happening around me. Now I see that I need to take it even one step further when I do pay attention. It is not enough for me to observe someone pulling a tissue out to wipe a tear or blow their nose, now I need to hone in on what that object
looks like as it comes from their purse or pocket. Yikes!
But then again, no one said writing was easy. So I suppose I will just have to wipe
my nose and get back to work.
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