The idea that writers’ words are framed by whatever they are writing on – typewriter, screen, paper – is so well known it barely needs repeating. But I will – there is always something new to say about it.
Or take Lord Dunsany’s books. Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, had a wonderfully lyrical style. You can imagine Christopher Lee reading his books aloud. (Actually, you don’t have to imagine it – Lee played the King of Elfland on the 1977 King of Elfland’s Daughter concept album.)
There is a reason for the sonority. Dunsany eschewed typewriters. He wrote with a quill pen.
Framing counts for much. The question for writers is how to control it – and how to take advantage of it.
Books written on screen will always, I think, be framed by that screen. By the screen size. Certainly by the software. I sometimes see authors espousing Scrivener’s full-screen options, for instance; or the way it allows writers to run virtual file cards. What’s framing writing here is subtle but present – it’s the concept of the software developers, wrapped around the wider concept of the operating system maker, and then of the hardware manufacturers. It’s subtle, it’s almost invisible – but it’s there. Not a bad thing. We couldn’t write without our favourite software. But it’s handy to be aware of the framework. Then we can transcend it.
Will changing the frame give us different ideas? Absolutely! I think even changing aspects of the way it’s presented on screen will do it. How many of you have bought a new computer – and suddenly got inspired to write something?
We can’t go out and buy a new computer every week. But I’ve got some frame-changing tricks I’d like to share:
1. Use paper and pencil. Perhaps to plan your novel or scenes, or to scribble down some ideas and dialogue. It’s easy to throw words into a keyboard. Harder to write them, letter by letter. Does it force you to think differently?
2. Try changing your default font and margins on your software. Different look – different feel.
3. Print out what you’re written and go through that with pen and ink. You’ll see stuff you’ve not seen before. This is a good technique for final revisions before finishing – even if what you’re writing will be presented on screen.
4. Also change the environment you write in. Go out with a laptop (or pen and paper). Take a walk. Find a beach and sit on the shingle watching the waves come in, or a forest and sit under a tree.
5. Do you have an old typewriter? Drag it out. If it doesn’t work, not problem – sit and imagine how things might be to write on it. Put your hands on the keyboard. Think about composing your story on it. Then go write something on the computer. Conceptualisation can be as powerful a frame-changing tool as actually doing it.
Do these work for you? Have you got your own ways of changing writing frame? What are your thoughts on this whole idea? I’d love to hear from you.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012