Lyrical writing is musical, like playing a piece on the piano. The words float along like poetry, creating a mood that sweeps the reader into a magical cloud. This technique is considered a gift, like plucking chords on a harp. But can it also be learned?
In my opinion, the best practice for acquiring and perfecting style is studying the Masters. Remember, the human brain learns from exposure and repetition. Visiting, revisiting, analyzing, and adapting desired techniques take years of study until those seeds become rooted in the soil of a creative soul.
As a former English teacher, I have spent a lifetime studying many authors’ works in-depth. Of all these, my favorites are John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
When I read Steinbeck, I can crunch grit between my teeth from the swirling Oklahoma dustbowl. I suffer on the hot, slow trip to California, which greets the Joads to the Land of Promise with despair instead of hope. How long can the oppressed struggle forward before they collapse in pathetic defeat? As a reader, I crawl, pant, and shed tears with the characters all the way to the last page.
How can writers acquire such a powerful gift?
For an ultimate study of lyrical writing, I return repeatedly to Gatsby. During my former studies of the author’s life, I discovered just how Fitzgerald’s style adds layer upon layer to a written scene until it’s fertile with imagery that comes alive and dances in front of the reader. The author often states action in one simple sentence, followed by three or four with similes and metaphors, layering it all up, like cementing bricks together with the mortar of emotional imagery.
Have you ever read a paragraph that took up permanent residence in your memory? Here’s an example of one of my favorites:
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor. (Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 8.)
As one example among hundreds, Fitzgerald’s words depicting his brilliant style sparkle like diamonds on a black velvet cloth, never to be forgotten.
How about you? Taking time to immerse yourself in the study of the lyrical style of one of the Masters will permanently enrich your soul and your writing.
Writing Prompt: Finish this line from The Great Gatsby using lyrical style.
The Late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like…
Karen Jurgens, a Cincinnati native, has been a Texan transplant for thirty years and counting. Since retiring from teaching, she has begun a new career as an author, blogger, editor, and speaker within the context of Christian ministry. She blogs about scriptural answers to life’s trials at Touched by Him Ministries and writes for other Christian blogs. She is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Connect with her at Touched by Him Ministries , Writing Prompts blog, HeartwingsBlog, Twitter, Facebook Author page, Amazon Author page. Link to purchase A Perfect Fit.
Formally titled Desire’s Promise – Newly revised and expanded. Carlie Livingston is steering into her last year of college in Oxford, Ohio, confident that she and Lance Holloway are headed to the altar after graduation. Those plans are wrecked, however, by her dad’s infidelity, causing her parents to walk through a messy divorce. Will she have the same fate if she marries her college sweetheart who comes from a secular family? Her mother insists she will.
She tests God’s Word by letting Him take the wheel of her life. But if God is in control, why are all her close relationships crumbling? Nothing makes sense.
Just when it appears hopeless, Clay McKinney two-steps into Carlie’s life, promising to provide everything she’s looking for in a Christian mate. But if he’s God’s answer, why can’t her heart release Lance? Where will her final destination be on this journey of trust?