What makes your writing memorable?

My other essays in Rhobin’s rounds

Every piece of text has a purpose. A shopping list is a reminder, and perhaps a restraining tool. A novel is meant to entertain. A car manual is designed to guide maintenance and repairs.

That’s up front. Behind it, invisible, is the belief system of the writer. That shopping list can be very illuminating regarding the lifestyle of its author. For example, my shopping list never has alcoholic drinks on it. If you read my stories, alcohol use tends to be limited to characters I disapprove of, or to characters who are going to learn painful lessons about what alcohol does to people.

Not that I am a killjoy. It is rather that my thinking-when-I-don’t-think-about-it is influenced by my work as a psychotherapist. I have seen the worst this substance can do, and automatically react against it.

Every piece of writing has such hidden messages. What to you is common sense, so obvious that it doesn’t need to be expressed, will be there, telling the world about you as a person. You simply cannot avoid this. And other people’s common sense is different from yours.

Nor should you want to avoid having your writing display your inner reality. Instead, make the unconscious conscious, and become deliberate about using your words to create the kind of society you approve of. This will give your writing strength and passion — as long as you carefully avoid missionary zeal. No one likes to be preached at by someone who is supposed to give you a few hours of pleasant relaxation, or useful instruction, or helpful information (depending on the type of writing).

This is one of the features that sets off hack writing from the memorable, whether we are considering fiction or nonfiction. A boy meets girl story can be a standard, formula romance. Read a half a dozen, and they’ll merge into one another. Or it can be powerful, emotionally compelling, because it is written with passion and conviction. The story is a vehicle for creating the reality of choice the author would like to see. It may have events in it the author would like to eliminate from real life, such as domestic violence, or racial hatred, or hanging on to past hurt. Without lecturing, it teaches.

A cook book is instructional, nonfiction. It can simply have recipes and pictures. But it is also an expression of the author’s sense of creativity, humour, views on health, knowledge of cultures — or the lack of these characteristics.

In fiction and creative nonfiction (biography, travel, journalism), memorable writing is set apart by passion and commitment. This is the fruit of self-understanding: knowing where you are coming from, where you are, and where you want to go.

So, make the implicit known to yourself, and write deliberately, with the aim of improving the world. Have that cook book become a tool for giving people better lives. Have that novel inspire and provoke thought as well as entertain. That travelogue can be a better geographical and cultural instruction that any text book.

Actually, coming to think of it, this is not only a recipe for writing, but a recipe for life.
catread

[Recycled from Bobbing Around volume 13 number 8.]

Please leave a comment. Also, do visit the other writers taking part in Rhobin’s Round, and comment on their offerings too.

Connie Vines
Skye Taylor
Rachael Kosinski
Helena Fairfax
Rhobin Courtright
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Beverley Bateman

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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20 Responses to What makes your writing memorable?

  1. judyinboston says:

    Hi Bob! It’s so interesting to get everyone’s take on this subject. A shopping list would be revealing: Goumet cat food? No gluten? All junk food/ Interesting, too, about your avoidance of alcohol, something I never thought of. I do use alcohol in writing, often to show character. I’ll think about it more, now.
    I’m glad you worry about the environment. We ALL should. This year and last, the bees almost disappeared from my garden where they were formerly profuse. Guess what? No cucumbers. This is scary. Off topic, but I just had to say this.

    Like

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you for visiting, Judy.
      Yes, we are now officially in the 6th extinction event of this planet, and your cucumbers are possibly part of it. In my country, the Great Barrier Reef has been devastated. Ecologically very rich kelp forests that hug the shore for thousands of miles have severe dieback, and northern mangrove forests are disappearing.
      But it’s all right. Our new Minister for Environment has the nickname “Mr. Coal.”
      🙂
      Bob

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rhobin says:

    I so agree with you, even about the grocery list! As to hidden messages, they creep into everyone’s writing. I’ve been dissecting TV commercials with my college writing students to find ‘hidden’ messages, which pretty much lately has been ‘Go ahead and lie.’

    Like

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      What an excellent idea, to open young people’s eyes to the wonders of the advertising industry. My favorite is the beautiful girl selling you anything. Male watcher: “If you buy this car, girls like this will fall from the sky for you.” Female watcher: “Buy this car and you’ll look like this.”
      My reaction is invariably, “Buy this car and you’ve proved yourself to be an idiot.”
      🙂
      Bob

      Like

  3. Dr. Bob, your take on this was fascinating! Your posts are always so different and thought provoking. It was an enjoyable read. 🙂

    Like

  4. okwriter says:

    Bob, your post was thought provocative. I like the idea of a shopping list. I hadn’t consider using things like alcohol or global warming or hidden messages. I think I’ll be more conscious about the words I put on the page after this. Thanks for an interesting post.

    Like

  5. maria j. nietoI am finall says:

    Hi Bob: Your words made my words become real. Reality is helping me to consciously recognize the meaning of words I wrote, and words I am writing. Recognition and acceptance is painful,
    but it is also the beginning of freedom.
    If I ever finish my second book,I will hopefully know the meaning of all my words and begin to clean up the mess.
    Thank you!
    Maria

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Maria, I certainly found your book to be memorable!
      It taught me lots I didn’t know about the Spanish civil war, and it’s the only one I know of that was written by a ghost — a girl who died, falling down a well.
      🙂
      Bob

      Like

  6. Hi Bob, Lovely post. I couldn’t contribute this time because of holidays. I’m really conscious of alcohol misuse because I used to work in that field. However, I write historical romance and so it has to be there. It was often safer than the water to drink! Anne Stenhouse

    Like

  7. Victoria Chatham says:

    I totally agree that alcohol abuse is not to be taken lightly. It’s a sad affliction. In her book The Aunt Sally Team, author Flick Merauld’s character is an alcholic and I thought she captured the subject very well. I recently watched a documentary on The Great Barrier Reef and it’s sad to see how it’s deteriorating. Thanks for an insightful post.

    Like

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Hi Victoria, thanks for calling by.
      I think your comment, and that of several other visitors, actually provides evidence for my post. We are discussing real issues, not merely writing.
      That’s what writing should be about!
      🙂
      Bob

      Like

  8. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thanks for visiting, and the pat on the back, Anne. Holidays can be a problem, which is why I avoid them. Instead, I try to turn as many ordinary days as possible into holidays.
    Alcohol? I did my drunkenness in a previous life, possibly in a period you have written about.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

  9. Thanks for the great topic this month, Bob, and for your fascinating take on it. I liked the bit about writing and common sense. Quite often it’s the way a book reflects my own life back in the ordinary details that stays with me, rather than fast-moving car chases and explosions.

    Like

  10. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Helena. I found your post interesting too.
    There are all too many explosions in the real world. Nowadays, my thinking is about how to stop it, and that shows in my writing.
    And I prefer to wait for a car rather than to chase it.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

  11. Dear Dr. Bob,
    Great writing advice! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  12. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Oh, it’s no my doing! Rhobin Courtright makes me.
    But thank you for the thank you.
    🙂

    Like

  13. connievines says:

    Dr.Bob, I am always tardy to post my comments but I do so enjoy your articles. ” Behind it, invisible, is the belief system of the writer. That shopping list can be very illuminating regarding the lifestyle of its author.” I try to be in character when I write. Still, I suppose my story lives within my personal belief system. Great post!

    Like

  14. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Connie.
    Certainly, when you are in the POV of a character, then that person is writing. But the kinds of characters you create also reflects your value system. We can have both.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

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