VIVA! – Tips for Good Writing

October 19, 2009


The catchphrase “vivid, vibrant and immediate” is often used to describe the attributes of well -written prose.  But what does that mean exactly?  I decided to flush out this aspect of writing and in the process, added my own twist.

 Vivid – According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, vivid means lively, sharp, and intense and a synonym for “vivid” is graphic.  The word graphic is defined as clear and lifelike.  These are all descriptors I aspire to achieve.  One technique I use to guide vivid writing is to use the “less is more” rule of thumb.  I ask myself:  How can I say this in fewer words?   

 Vibrant – According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to be vibrant is to pulsate with life, to be bright, responsive, and sensitive.  For me, vibrant writing means smart word choices, prose that color the words on the page, not with adjectives, but with strong verb choices.

 Immediate actually has two components:  time and space.  The phrase “stay in the moment” is meant to explain the importance of capturing the idea of immediacy and the need to establish the reader’s experience of the here and now.     Yet, the term immediate doesn’t intuitively prompt the second element of “proximity.”  For this reason, I believe capturing spatial relationship in the written word is worthy of its own descriptor and should not be buried under the umbrella of this two-pronged term.   Even back in the era of Plato, the Greek philosopher, he explored this same issue of how humans explore our surroundings in his “The Metaphor of the Cave.”   In some ways, nothing has changed.  To situate our characters in their environment requires the use of ALL five senses.  This is such a fundamental aspect of the human experience that I reorganized the letters and created my own variation of VVI to form my own acronym:  VIVA (vivid, immediate, vibrant, all senses).  To Italians, viva means to live, while viva in Spanish means applause, so what could be a better moniker to describe the foundation for good prose? 

 All Senses – Unless disabled, the senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch are the means by which we interpret the world around us.  To me, this is the catchall for all the other components.  To be clear and lifelike (vivid), to be oriented in time (immediate), to be responsive (vibrant), prose should encompass all five of these senses within our characters life experience.   Ultimately, all four of these elements (VIVA!)  are necessary to create the fantasy world that a writer envisions and to further capture the essence of humanity on the page so that the reader is transported into another dimension. 

When executed well, writing allows a reader to step into a world of people, places and things that only exist inside typed words on a flat page.   What a daunting task, what a marvelous undertaking.   Viva – to live, VIVA! – to write.  Live to write.  Isn’t that what writers do?