Freewrite, 5.19.20

What makes bad writing? Something that is poorly written can vary in its failure to communicate effectively. Obviously, as a teacher in the public school system, I see lots of poorly expressed ideas on the written page. But they are not all poor for the same reason. Some may have run sentences and comma splices. Others have misspelled words and incorrect word use. Many will simply struggle to organize their thoughts in a cohesive manner, i.e. organizing sentences to build off one another to create full paragraphs and so pages of visualized thoughts and expression.
This last issue is the truest killer of a good writer, I believe. It isn’t enough to write properly punctuated sentences and use the correct spelling (and correct words) as you write (though of course, you need to have these aspects of the written language in your grasp if you are to move forward). You must present ideas in a manner that promotes continuity. This could be seen as a linear expression: 12345. This is to say, sentence 1 gives way to sentence 2, sentence 1 and 2 give way to sentence 3, each new sentence being the logical conclusion of the sentences (thoughts) that came before it.
Sure, this may work well in an argumentative or persuasive essay. But what about fiction–or even poetry? Certainly, this applies to fiction, though in a multitude of different ways depending on the aspect of fiction one is writing at any given moment. For instance, a moment of character development may look like this:
As she stood there, on the break of all she’d ever wanted, Mia realized it had all been a game. A game she had been roped into, trussed and tied. That was the tightness in her guts. They weren’t snakes–snakes would want to escape that place. No these were deep and gnarled roots that told her the things she’d always wanted wasn’t worth having–and neither was she.
Now, hopefully, each of my sentences seemed like a logical progression to what had come before. But how strange would it be if we got halfway through this aspect of emotional plot and then the linear nature was abandoned:
As she stood there, on the break of all she’d ever wanted, Mia realized it had all been a game. She took a lick of her popsicle and smiled. A game she had been roped into, trussed and tied. That was the tightness in her guts. . .
As you can see there is a sentence in there that throws the whole continuity of the moment off. Mia may indeed smile at her realization of this game she has played, and she may even be eating a popsicle but would it not be more fitting to put in a detail that reflects her own conundrum. Sure, she smiles at her revelation–but she’s so caught up in it that she suddenly feels a cold trickle down her hand and now her popsicle sloughs off the stick and onto the ground. Why would Mia smile? Exasperation. Perhaps relief. But the action of the popsicle melting and landing on the ground will mirror Mia’s sense of disenchantment far more than a slight smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. As most readers know, smiles can be sad as well as happy.

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