Tips for Writing Poetry
There can be many ways to develop a story in a poem. The most important thing is that it is developed logically and systematically. The following is a typical way of developing a story.
- The first step is to develop a premise (i.e. a concise statement of what happens in a story).
- The next step might be to develop the main characters (i.e. contrive a profile that describes who each of the main characters is)
- The third step may be to develop the principal “events” (i.e. consider the dramatic events, what their cause & effect is - what leads up to them, what happens as a result).
- Next develop the Sequence of main events
- Finally fill in minor events, and detail.
You are weaving a story through your poem, particularly when writing a longer poem, such as a ballad.
Planning Your Story
Why do we need to plan a story? Many writers find that they start off with a great story, they write it, then find it doesn’t work properly, because they haven’t planned what exactly happens, who does what etc. Planning helps eliminate errors in the construction of a story. It also saves you as a writer time wasted writing these errors. But planning isn’t for every writer, some writers enjoy writing intuitively. You are the only one who can decide what works for you.
- When planning, you need to have a good understanding of your goals.
- What are you trying to accomplish with your story?
- How am I going to make the story funny/serious/sad/exciting/thrilling?
- What is my premise?
Developing your Voice
The voice of the story is the author's voice. All authors have a voice. You should not try hard to develop one as this may come across as artificial and unnatural. It can be very hard for an author to eliminate their voice from a story. For example, if you have a humorous way of writing, if everything is a joke, or a pun, even in the most difficult situations, it can be hard to eliminate that voice from your story. Writing in our true voice is the easiest way of writing. As you grow and develop as a writer, you train your voice and develop it, but initially, use the voice you have.
Many authors in fact use more than one voice. Some authors will use more than one pen name. They will write in one voice for one pen name, and another voice for another pen name. This can be hard. But as an author develops so their different voices may develop. Readers may feel that they know us because they have read our voice. We made was a lot of our own character into our stories, into our voice, but that does not mean that the things you write about in our stories are actually us. It does not mean that we will do the things in the story. It is just that we are able to you use our imagination, and our voice, to tell a story.
If you simply relax, and write clearly and simply as you can, your words will begin to flow. As the words flow, your voice will begin to emerge. It is important that you do not try to force your voice, getting as we said earlier, you may sound a natural. If you try to write in a clever way or a stylish way that does not fit with your voice, it will not work. Your voice is original, it has its own special quality, use it, hone it and develop it to write your stories your way.
The following notes are taken from our Dramatic Writing course, but can also relate to the writing of stories in poetry.
The ambience of the story is the location and more. The story is located in time, space, within a culture, and within a certain group of people (for example, a certain class, gang, school, and family). Ten different authors could write about the same town, but they would all write about it differently, they would all write about it with different characters, different locations and in a different time.
When you are deciding on the ambience for your story, try to select one that you know. This is not essential, but it is easy to describe somewhere that you know well. If you do not want to write about your hometown or where you work, but want to write about mediaeval England, you will need to carry out research. Khamila Shamsie recently wrote a book called Burnt Shadows. She used Google Earth, and YouTube to get images of places that she had never visited.
As you can see from Shamsie’s example, you do not necessarily need to have visited a place to be able to describe it. However, if you are not personally knowledgeable about a location, then you need to carry out research to find out more about the location.
It may not just be in a location that you are describing, it may be a time period, or different culture. To be able to write realistically, you need to know your subject. Do not think that you can trick your reader. They will know when you are not giving realistic details. They will trick you will find you out in some way. It is hard to write a full story about somewhere or something that we do not know if we have not researched it well, without being caught out. Bear that in mind, as we do not want to disappoint the reader. If we disappoint a reader wants, they may never read us again. If that first reader happens to be a literary agent, or a publisher, that tiny mistake could mean that our novel is never published.
ACS Conduct a series of Courses in Writing and Publishing; including one on Poetry.
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