The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Does Your Writing Have Fireworks?

         Happy 4th of July to all of us in the United States and I hope the rest of you around the world will join us in our celebration.

A photo of fireworks

          On Wednesday I'll be giving my thoughts about a book I recently finished reading.  It will be a somewhat negative review partly because I disliked the style of the writing, but also because of the rambling approach of telling the story (stories?).

           As I was thinking back on this book I began thinking about how writing is sometime similar to a fireworks display.  I also wanted to do a post today related to the Fourth of July.  Okay, so it's a gimmicky way to go, but this is my fireworks display for today.

           There are many types of fireworks ranging from simple sparklers and firecrackers to elaborate roman candles and multicolored skyrockets.  Fireworks may emphasize effects such as noise, smoke, fire, or floating materials, or may be a combination of any or all of these.  The display of the fireworks may be very basic for a solitary user or a small group of users, or they may be very elaborate on a massive scale for the larger audience.  Whatever the case, fireworks are intended to capture attention.

          Writers use literary effects to capture the attention of readers.  The fireworks of writing may come in the form of unique story approach such as twists or surprise endings.  Other attention getting devices may include vivid descriptions, clever metaphors, quirky style, or unorthodox punctuation.  Strong characters and realistic dialogue may be the forte of some writers while others may engage in rambling stream of consciousness or peculiar digressions into philosophical realms.

           Whatever the writer's approach may be, it will often become the trademark of that writer.   Some may pass off a writer's trick bag as gimmickry, while others will include it as style.  However, the writer should always make an attempt to be authentic and coherent.   All noise and dazzle might catch a readers attention initially, but will eventually wear thin if there is no substance.

             What kind of fireworks do you like to use in your own writing?   What fireworks--gimmicks, styles, or inclinations--annoy you most in the writing of others?     Will you be watching (or did you watch) a professional fireworks display on July 4th or do you like to buy your own fireworks and put on your own display at home?



  1. Great post. I like the fireworks of surprises in writing -- the surprise of a great metaphor, great pace, great plot twist. I don't like cliched fireworks, forced fireworks, lots of dazzle and no boom. ;)

  2. First let me wish you and all Americans a Happy 4th of July.

    As I write in poetry about my life's expereiences it all depends if there have been any "Fireworks" in my life. I enjoy life despite having family problems as I'm sure most families do at sometime or another, but I have decided to put the problems to the back of my mind like the fireworks that don't display.

    Once again have a great day and enjoy yourself.

  3. Great post. We had lots of premature fireworks in our neighborhood last night. Noisy, smoky and completely unexpected and inappropriate, the timing was off. In stories timing is so important, wehave to build the anticipation and set off the fireworks at the right time. Even surprises have to be timed just right to enhance and not detract from the overall experience. Otherwise, our readers ended up thinking evil things about us -- like me about my neighbors last night. Thanks for giving me so much to think about.

  4. We went to the local fairgrounds, here, last night, and watched the public show. We also went to a friend's party on Saturday. Those rednecks had a lot of fireworks.

    Personally I'll put up with almost anything in reading and writing, as long as it's done well, and not too overtly.

  5. I want my writing to be on fire. :)

    Happy 4th!

  6. I like this idea...I'm going to make sure I'm setting off fireworks in my writing.

  7. I just my writing has a wick. :) And yes, I'm going to a professional display. Doing it myself is why I have a hearing loss in one ear. :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  8. I like a strong voice in a novel. Big fireworks and lots of literary bang, which for me usually comes down to word choice and the writer's unique perspective.

    Happy 4th of July!!

  9. It's gimmickry when it doesn't work. It's style when it does. :)

  10. Never thought about firework writing before but a very interesting point. Are exploding words legal in your state? Have a great celebration and stay safe!

  11. Lynda -- Surprise is what separates good writers from the mediocre ones. And surprise doesn't always have to come in an big obvious display--the surprises can be very subtle.

    Yvonne --Thanks! Yes, life is full of fireworks that can be pretty random. The writer's or poet's job is to organize the randomness into order and sensibility.

    Cathy -- Excellent point! Timing is everything in writing. Impact comes from the appropriate placement of words, phrases, and literary effects. There is a time and season for everything.

    Matthew -- Fireworks have been going off throughout our neighborhood all week. I'm pretty tolerant with what I read, but when something blatantly stands out and distracts my reading enjoyment then I can get rather annoyed.

    Teresa -- For sure! When the writing sizzles and stays hot that will keep me reading. I just don't want a writer to stick an exploding cigar in my mouth or a cherry bomb in my toilet and then sit back and laugh at me after the fireworks have gone off.

    Liza -- Dazzle your audience with artistry, beauty, and skillful handling of words, and be careful not to send everyone running covering their ears and blinded by the flashes.

    Jules -- Just don't blow your fingers off! It's hard to write when that happens.


  12. L.G. -- Big fireworks and flash are great when they are kept under control. Unique voice and perspective comes out of that display.

    Suze-- oooo! Well said.

    Siv -- People in our state use a lot of exploding words--especially the politicians.


  13. I guess I try to be as consise as possible (sometimes that iis not possible) and I build up to a surprise at the end. What I hate?...when I am reading a great book and I invest so much time only to find an ending that that is a complete cop out. or when I read a mystery and all through out are facts and the ending is totally made up of coincidences.
    Great post. Blessings, Joanne

  14. If you read my post today on day 5 of the Fiji vacation you'll pretty much see how I write...may not be pretty and follow all then "rules" of writing but it gets you there!

    Happy 4th Lee!

  15. I don't like a story that tosses so much action, elements, and 'stuff' at you just to distract from the lame or cheesy plot. It doesn't make it better - just makes it fuller.

  16. For my blog I go with the gimmick of theme weeks as it lends a certain level of focus to me. As for my stories, in the rough draft I might use lots of gimmicks to help me carve out a story, but then turn around in the revision stage and lose the gimmicks that are just too gimmicky to keep the reader's interest.

  17. Hey Lee! Here in Canada we had our big fireworks celebration on July 1. As for writing I do have favourite authors, like most people do, but I don't know that they have any overt fireworks..I guess I kind of like styles that are the opposite of outward fireworks...explosions turned inward are more my preference..someone who's having a melt down,but not so you'd notice it.. trying like hell to keep it together..I love that kind of story, if it's well written.
    Hope you're having an excellent 4th of July!

  18. Late this evening my husband and our daughter and her sons will crawl out the bedroom window to sit on the garage roof to watch the fireworks over Memorial Park. It is an awesome place to sit and an awesome display. Can't wait!

  19. Happy Independence Day!

    I don't like a lot of pointless action or drama. Swear words just for shock factor can be annoying, too--and a lot of YA books seem to use them.

  20. Hope you are having nice holidays, Lee, with the loved ones!

  21. Happy Independence Day, Arlee!
    I'll be watching the fireworks over the Pacific from Magic Island in Honolulu. Always a great display.

    (You've got me curious about the book review on Wednesday.)

  22. happy fourth and i'm very interested in what you have to say about this book you read

    Everyday Life

  23. Great topic. As for my writing, I try to avoid gimmicky, fireworks type stuff and it annoys me when writers are obvious with that.

  24. I love fireworks! :)

    When I'm reading I like a balance of fireworks - enough dazzle to surprise me and lots of substance :)

  25. For anyone doing your own fireworks tonight...please be careful! The ER will be busy enough without your presence. Instead, why not try a few sparklers. I'm especially fond of colorful metaphors, flashy characterizations, and foreshadowing that goes "pop" in the night.

  26. Hope you're enjoying the holiday. I like to keep up the suspense from start to finish as much as I like intricate plot twists.

    What I don't like to see is suspense that fizzles.

  27. Joanne -- Sometimes I wonder if a writer might have such a good story that it's difficult to find a satisfactory ending and things just fizzle out in the end. I have found that to be the case in many stories.

    Chuck -- I always feel like when writing the writer makes the rules and if they work who can dispute them.

    Alex -- It's kind of like eating junk food--it's tasty when you're eating it, but it leaves you feeling empty and unsatisfied later.

    Jeffrey -- Gimmicks can be good and even necessary, but not all of them work.

    Eve -- I enjoy subtlety in writing and a story that makes me think.

    Pam -- As I type my responses fireworks are going off all around us. I don't know where the people in the surrounding neighborhood get their fireworks, but I don't think they are legal. In a short while I'll go out in my front yard where I can see the official city display.

    The Golden Eagle -- I am not a fan of profanity unless it is sparsely used for impact. And action should have a point and not just be thrown in as fluff.

    Dezmond -- Back home now as I write this, but we did have a nice day.

    Gail -- Please come back for the book review as I want to know if anyone else has read this book and what did they think of it.

    Becca -- And ditto for what I just said to Gail.


  28. Langley -- Discretion in writing is an art.

    Jemi -- I'm with you on this, especially when the writing has the greater intention to entertain.

    Jan -- I like the way you put that. And no fireworks display for me--my neighbors are doing enough and I'm just watching to make sure they don't start any fires.

    J.L. --Suspense that fizzles is a rip off and I am not enticed to read more writing from the author who gives me this.

  29. We're under a burn ban, so no fireworks of any kind. We watched NY and Boston on TV. Hope your 4th was wonderful.

  30. My other half was a pyrotechnician for 12 years - so I've had my fill of fireworks - and this goes for writing too - I like my (novel) writing sparce and clean - and if I feel that it has any hint of a gimmick - I cut it. Same when I'm reading - I want authenticity, not gimmicky fluff!
    Hope you had a fab weekend

  31. Love the comparison of writing and fireworks. I am still only writing on-line, but I do have a few fireworks :)

  32. Fireworks are initially very pretty but after a while they look kinda similar. As for firecrackers, they're annoying to me. Maybe for the person in charge [pun intended] of setting them off they're more entertaining. But to me, senseless loud noise isn't particularly fun.

    I tolerated the unorthodox punctuation, uh I mean lack of, in THE ROAD. It wasn't as pronounced there as it was in Joyce's Ulysses.

  33. Emily -- Thank you!

    Carol -- My neighborhood looked like a war zone last night as it does every year. I'm surprised there hasn't been a fire here yet.

    Laura -- I don't like fluff, but a well executed gimmick can be okay if it entertains me and doesn't leave me with a groan of disbelief.

    Rhonda -- Humor is often all about the fireworks, and in a good way.

    Lisa from Nadir -- Over where I live I'm still not sure sometimes whether the loud bangs are firecrackers or gunshots. I hear them throughout the year. McCarthy's punctuation tricks can take some getting used to.


  34. Hope you had a good time yesterday.

    On the writing fireworks front, I have found that judges of short story comps tend not to like a surprise rocket right at the end.

  35. I also like your comparison of writing and fireworks, and that it is only one ingredient to good writing. I agree that "substance" is the meat of a story and just a pinch of fireworks will go a long way. Julie

  36. I actually don't do fireworks in my story. Fireworks surprise people with a bang and look pretty. But after that, things get rather repetitive (if somewhat pretty).

    Not sure what to compare my style to, though. :-/

    Maybe when I'm done, I'll let you read my story and you can tell me. ;-P

  37. Hi Lee, popped in to wish you blessings on your day of celebration.
    I write from the heart, don't know any other way to do it. Pop and fizzle? If someone reads what I've written and stays to the end
    I'm flattered.
    When reading someone else's writing, if I can put it down and look forward to coming back to it, that to me is the mark of a good writer. I don't like gimmicks.
    God bless you my friend and welcome home, Geoff.

  38. I like using the twists. We set off our own fireworks this year along with the rest of our neighborhood.

  39. Juliet -- I wonder if that would include writers like O. Henry. He was noted for his surprise twists.

    Julie -- I agree that ultimately the substance is the most important of the story, but the fireworks make it readable and entertaining.

    Misha -- Maybe you have fireworks but they're just not as flashy as they might have been in another's hands. Writing doesn't have to be pretty. I'd love to read your story.

    Geoff -- If you can't remember where you've left off reading, that is probably a bad sign. Good writing inspires interest and anticipation.

    Donna -- I think the twists make a story interesting as long as they are logical and are not silly.


  40. I just said what the heck and went straight from fireworks to nuclear. Why mess around. Oh, I'm sending you a letter offline.

  41. I agree with Alex. I think bad plot is just bad plot. Cant' hide it with other elements.

  42. I'm actually still trying to discover my firecracker....
    Right now the only thing that seems to be annoying me are news outlets online. They have captivating/firecracker headlines but poor and repetitive ( hyped up)content.

  43. Great questions, Arlee! I skipped the fireworks this year due to some lingering health issues, but the rest of my family went and loved it. We've done both styles, going to a big display, or buying our own. Jury still out on which is better.
    As to the fireworks metaphor you suggested, I would almost rather read a good writer's cheesy plot than the most exciting, intricately plotted book with irritating style. I guess that translates into make the display flow gracefully, with smaller effects. Don't try to just make the biggest bang.

    Tina @ Life is Good

  44. When I clocked the date I said 'Happy 4th July' to my husband, although we don't celebrate it over here in the UK. Hope it was a great day for you. I'm afraid I fins Fireworks scary, a legacy from my childhood.

    I have to like a writer's style otherwise I really find it hard to get past the first few pages. Maybe it's because I'm not a particularly fast reader.

  45. Stephen -- I loved the way Breakthrough started with a bang and was relentless with action throughout.

    Ciara -- Usually bad plot doesn't work at all, but no plot can be even more confusing and less interesting.

    D. Heath -- I guess that's been true of much "news" throughout history. Something to do with marketing I suppose.

    Tina -- Style and approach ultimately have the most to do with keeping me reading.

    Sara -- I'm also a slow reader which sometimes will keep me engaged enough to adapt to a unique and difficult style. Cormac McCarthy is a good example.


  46. Lee, I use a lot of dialog in my writing, which makes for a quick read. I also like action and building suspense, which also pushes the story forward. I guess those would be my fireworks. :0)

    What is annoying to me in books I read--long winded descriptions of anything. I have to skim through them till I get to some action.

    Thanks for the post!

    The Write Soil

  47. Hi Lee, First off, thanks for taking the time to follow my blogs - when you have this many people commenting I really do appreciate that you take the time for my writing!
    Fireworks, eh? Things like that - that I just wrote. SINGLE WORDS WITH SOME (whoops)sort of expressive grunt, followed by a question mark or exclamation point, which ever suits. I use things like that a lot in both non-fiction and fiction. Though haven't written much fiction of late, but have just joined a writer's group and have pulled my novel out of the ashes of the past few years of my life..and dialogue I think is a firework in my fiction. Definitely a firework, that and mystical journeys by characters, or their journeys into mysticism - whichever way you want to look at it :-)


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