Your writing is a textual painting of the world

Writing is textual painting in which the elements of fiction – plot, characters, setting, point of view, theme, and style – are arranged to create a piece of art. Because of this, some work by hack writers look like a kid’s painting. Others show more sophistication and flair, fine enough to hang in a living room but hardly museum quality. And then there are those select few authors and books that are for the ages.

When you write on the canvas of notebook paper or computer screen, are you aiming to be a master?

Does your writing enjoy balance – that is the symmetrical arrangement of the five elements of fiction and writing style, that creates a pleasing whole? Or have you gone plot-heavy at the expense of character development, detailed the setting with purple prose rather than move the story forward, or selected a third person point of view though reader intimacy with your protagonist is necessary?

Does your writing enjoy movement – that is, the positioning of the elements of fiction to create a sense of action? Or have you provided details such as the physical appearance of characters that have no bearing on the plot, written here-to-there lines (“He opened the car door then placed the key into the ignition”) that slow the story, or penned pointless dialogue that has no bearing on resolving the story’s central problem?

Does your writing enjoy rhythm – that is, an underlying beat that evokes specific emotions and responses? Or does the word choice and semantics undercut the emotion they are intended to elicit – remember that semantics are the writer’s hues – or maybe the similes and metaphors contradict the story’s theme and message?

Does your writing enjoy focus – that is, the emphasis is on a protagonist or major theme that the story is about? Or does your story include too many characters so that no one stands out as the protagonist, offers too many subplots that have little to do with solving the tale’s central problem, or allows the protagonist to drift so that his actions aren’t the reason he emerges victorious in the climax?

Does your writing enjoy contrast – that is, the proper use of opposites to evoke the feeling you intended? Or is the setting out of whack with the scene by giving positive, light descriptions during a tense moment, or by giving a character personality traits that make him one-dimensional and so diminishes the suspense of whether or not she’ll solve the story’s central problem?

Does your writing enjoy pattern – that is, a structure to the story to give it a form so that readers may easily navigate it? Or does the plot eschew the traditional inciting incident-rising action-climax-falling action-denouement, the character’s development doesn’t occur in sync with that scaffolding, or perhaps an object in the story is used multiple times to represent contradictory ideas?

Does your writing enjoy proportion – that is, the fitting together of your story’s elements in terms of size and scale? Or is the setting an unlikely place for your story’s action to occur, the protagonist is too inexperienced to resolve the central problems, or the writing is overly poetic and epic in tone given the problem that must be solved?

Does your writing enjoy unity – that is, do all the story’s parts fit and belong together? Or does something feel awkwardly out of place, such as an overdescribed setting that slows the story, a lack of significant action to justify the character’s growth, or preaching rather than inferring the message through the protagonist’s decisions?

A picture is worth a thousand words, the old saying goes. To be a master writer, your challenge now is to paint the perfect picture in even fewer words.