Encouragement, Coaching and Prompts for Writers
A monthly blog by Eve West Bessier, Poet Laureate Emerita of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico
In Paris, the famous Arc de Triomphe is currently completely wrapped in a silvery grey fabric as a tribute to the late installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The arc of the Write On! blog is also a wrap, as this post is the final edition.
But don’t worry, I’m not leaving you blogless in Silver City, or in Seattle for that matter. On the first Saturday in November, I will start a brand new monthly blog called, The View from Here.
Meanwhile, Write On! Coaching and Prompts for Writers is being crafted into a lovely book. I will let you know when it hits the virtual and actual bookshelves.
So, let’s see if we can wrap up this year of writing and writing advice in a shimmery, silver lining.
In this closing chapter, so to speak, I want to talk about the arc in the context of writing. You have likely heard the term story arc, and if you went to high school in the United States, you will have learned about the five-paragraph formula of the expository essay. That formula is itself an arc. It begins with an introductory paragraph, which includes your thesis statement. Then come the three or more paragraphs supporting the thesis statement with facts, figures and corroborations. Finally, there is a concluding paragraph which confidently upholds the validity of that original thesis statement based on the evidence presented.
Expository essay writing is dreaded by many and adored by some for pretty much the same reason. That formula. There is a symmetry involved that appeals. It’s a rigid platform based on values that brilliantly uphold scientific research, but it can be limiting in more creative pursuits.
I was a social science academic for over two decades and wrote a plethora of research reports within that organizational framework. However, if you’ve been reading my monthly offerings, you know that I am not much a fan of formulaic writing when it comes to creative work. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for structure. In any genre, writing works best when it has a clear beginning, middle and end. Even if these components are not laid out in chronological order, they need to be present. Writing moves us most effectively if there is an arc of both storyline and emotional development from the introduction of characters and events through to the final revelation and denouement.
All of this order is not just some archaic idea, no pun intended, carried forward by crusty profs in ivy-enshrouded brick buildings. It’s a genuine law of physics involved. We all know about that useful bell curve, right? Especially with the pandemic still not completely behind us, we are well-versed in the statistical reality of numbers having this predictable path of increase and decrease that creates a bulge in the middle. While not much in my life has ever situated itself comfortably in that middle, as I tend to be an outlier, the middle is fat because that’s where most of reality tends to hang out.
I mention this because a bell curve is a nice way to visualize an arc. Any piece of writing can be assisted by the elegance of this statistical graph. You have to start somewhere, go somewhere, and end up somewhere. Even if where you end up is statistically speaking where you started, there needs to be a catharsis involved. I personally love arcs that circle back to their beginnings, bringing enlightenment to something that was dark at the start. Let’s hope that will be the case for our collective experience within the arc of the pandemic. Only time will tell.
Speaking of bringing some light to the darkness, all of the writing skills you have honed by reading and working with the seventeen Write On! posts over this past year have supported you in creating your own Arc de Triomphe. Not as a monument to the past but as a structure for the future, and that’s worth celebrating.
This month, I offer you the parting gift of honoring your process and your words. You are all bonafide writers in your own right! Go forth and cover your arcs in shining silver sheets of meaning. Be your own Cristo-style installation artist and place your artistic expressions out in the field of life as brilliant white lines of language flowing in the breeze! How’s that for a monumental sendoff?! Pun intended.
Here’s your final writing prompt. Write a prose poem in the concrete form. That means write a piece of prose in the spirit of poetry that creates a physical shape on the page. For this experience, use the shape of the actual Arc de Triomphe in Paris. This is easier to do with pencil and paper than on the computer screen, though you can transfer it to bits and bytes afterwards. Draw the outline with both the inner and outer edges of the Arc de Triomphe on a sheet of paper. Then start your piece of writing inside the bottom of the left base and work your way up over the top and back down to the bottom of the right side. You will be writing inside of a physical arc, so I am willing to bet the process will intuitively create an arc in your writing, both in content and emotion. Have fun with this! See you on the flip side!
With gratitude for your interest and participation in Write On!
Scroll down to About The Author for more information and check out Eve’s website at: www.jazzpoeteve.com