Last year, I was in Atlanta for the AWC (Atlanta Writers Club) annual conference—an organization of which I am a member. Contrary to previous years, the conference was particularly unique, for me at least, because it was the first time I witnessed so many aspiring authors, roaming the corridors of the grand Renaissance Concourse of Atlanta Airport—the site of the annual conference. I was told many experts from the Northeastern establishment were going to be present. Indeed, a few of them were at hand, and this was the buzz that grabbed slack-offish writers from their snoozes.
‘Perfectionating’ one’s creative writing style was the order of the day. To that end, several workshops were organized, and I took part in a couple of them. In the ones I went to, each was a replica of the other with different speakers. The subject being discussed was the role of adjectives in creative writing and its relevance in fiction writing.
It is true adjectives and their modifiers play a strategic role in creative writing, for they are the main tools, the words that authors cannot do without in descriptive narratives. So, the questions were: What kind of adjectives should authors use in contemporary fiction? Generics, like beautiful, ugly, small, big……or brands (specifics)? To my great surprise, every one of the speakers replied with a unified theme: ‘Keep it simple.’ They went on to say in lieu of using words like feline, coquettish etc.. to describe a woman’s beauty and sophistication, use simply beautiful and let the reader figure it out.
The unspoken consensus was that sophisticated prose only caters for a specific group: the intellectual elite. I thought that was grossly disrespectful to an audience yearning to learn about the art of creative writing. The notion of ‘show, don’t tell’ has been thrown out of the window, for, according to the speakers, it slows down the plot and therefore becomes irrelevant in a fast-pace world—the world of mass production.
In essence, they want writers—those who desire to have a shot at clinching the pedestal of stardom—to craft their stories in a journalistic format, telling it instead of showing it through the use of descriptive passages that “create the illusion of being there in the story, seeing events happen without the writer telling you.”
So, if low-level adjectives are the objects of the day, whatever happens to creative-nonfiction or historical fiction? I believe what separates the historical fiction writer from the actual historian who penned the story in the first place is the added embellishment, using backstory, flashback, and foreshadowing to make the narrative more appealing.
This is what Duke University says of creative writing: ‘Creative writing, a form of artistic expression, draws on the imagination to convey meaning through the use of imagery, narrative, and drama. This is in contrast to analytic or pragmatic forms of writing.’
Finally, one cannot create imagery using words without being explicitly artistic. Writing at sixth-grade level, which is how they want us to write, has its limit, and it serves no intellectual purpose. But writers should have hope. The art of writing and writing beautifully will forever be holy and unchangeable, even if their new interpretation, embedded in greed, wants to prove otherwise. (End)
Note: Ardain Isma is a novelist and editing manager at CSMS Magazine. He heads the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Introduction to Research Studies at Embry Riddle University. To see his books, click here.