Squints and Slants


Squints …

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

I think most of us have read Alice in Wonderland by Carroll. One that I am putting on my TBR list is his Hunting of the Snark. I’d also like to read the annotated Alice in Wonderland.

Does it surprise anyone else that the person who wrote Jabberwocky was a professor of mathematics?

…look at things with a sort of mental squint …

Why is that so important to the creative process?

How do you train yourself to do that and how do you put it into practice?

Going through this gutting complete revision thorough editing process of Josephine, I realize that I need to develop a stronger “mental squint”!

Slanting …

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

from Tell All the Truth, Dickinson

I need less “hitting people over the hit” and more whispering in their ears.

I need to exercise my “slant” and “squint” muscles!

There are times in my writing when I am shouting, which isn’t always bad – think O’Connor when she says

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock; to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

— Flannery O’Connor

But I don’t always have to shout.

How do I squint and slant and keep my voice in writing? That is of paramount importance – keeping what makes my voice unique but crafting my ability as a storyteller.

What about you? How are your squinting and slanting skills?

About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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3 Responses to Squints and Slants

  1. Great food for thought, Melinda. As usual, you have left me much to ponder.

  2. Roger says:

    Keeping one’s own voice is paramount, provided the writer thinks she/he has achieved something personal to them. for my Y/A novels, I let the reader see a scene as it unfolds for my characters. it’s not always easy.

  3. afracooking says:

    “Alice” is such an amazing book. I just loved the annotated version – it had me falling from one suprise into the next 🙂

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