WRITING TIP: I often write before I touch a keyboard. When I’m working with a client, I listen. I try to learn their voice and their message. Then I write the speech in my head. Actually, I don’t write it. I deliver it to an imaginary audience. I’ll speak extemporaneously, or I will just quietly give that speech. That is, I just start speaking. I’m trying to capture the vibe, the energy and rhythm of the speech as much as I am the facts. The more technical speech is, the less I’m able to do this. But for inspirational talks, or ones driven by story, this is how I usually do it.
Fiction writers can do this as well. That’s what you see in the photo. Well, what you do see is what I saw as I worked on a long short story set in ancient Turkey.
I went to a park with a large pond. Lots of turtles and carp. There are a bunch of signs that say, “Watch out for snakes.” I walked along a path going around the pond and absorbed myself in a particular scene. My hero is out hunting for antelope in the middle of a drought. He won’t find any antelope, but he will find his old friend who shares with him a meal.
While I’m walking, I’m thinking about my protagonist’s experience. How will he feel when he sees his old friend unexpectedly? It wasn’t exactly unexpected because he knew where his friend lived, but at the same time, he was happy to see him.
I want the vibe of the writing to be similar to walking through the woods. Ancient Turkey is not modern Georgia, but that’s not the point. I’m not looking at the surface layer, but several layers down. The surface layer I can simply paint over with a few details particular to my story’s setting.
My protagonist is walking, keeping his eye out for his quarry, and then he happens upon his friend. I can see the whole thing in front of me while I’m walking, like watching a movie.
My job then as a writer is to curate the images and movement, and record it down verbally.
If I were writing a speech, I would think about the kinds of tones and voice required to give a speech in the woods. For example, imagine the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke to 5,000 people. He’s really addressing the people in the front rows, but even then he has to compete with the sounds of a crowd.
He has to lift his voice, speak slowly as one should when they speak outside, with deliberate pauses. He shouldn’t shout or scream, but he needs to speak with as much power as he can find.
When I went home, the passage was largely written. All I had to do was write it down.