“This is the fundamental purpose of fiction: to get a protagonist from point A to point B with the greatest difficulty possible. ” — A. Victoria Mixon
“I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do—and I’ve got enough ego to think that every novelist should do this—should be a kind of personal assault. It ought to be somebody lunging right across the table and grabbing you and messing you up. It should get in your face. It should upset you, disturb you. And not just because you get grossed out.” — Stephen King
Ekphrasis is the process of translating one form of art into another, whether that means writing a poem about a painting or singing a song about architecture.
As a writer, it’s your job to translate one work of art — the world of your imagination — into another: the words of your story. Ekphrasis is one way of doing so.
This post is not about the trick for performing ekphrasis. It’s about conceiving of your writing that way.
Whether you’re working on science fiction, fantasy, horror, a romance novel, or a tale for young adults, the need to conceive of the world — your world — as a work of art, is paramount. You have to remember that the description you’re about to give of an apple, a chair, a blonde bombshell, comes not from reality, but from art, the art of your imagination. It’s your job to translate the work of its art into the words of your art. Be free in your interpretation, and allow yourself to color in words all your own.
What’s an example of ekphrasis?
The point is not what ekphrasis is, but what it does.
Relate its process to your writing, and see what it does for you.
“I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of. ” — Umberto Eco
“It’s folly to make too much of originality. So much of what we make rests on work that’s come before. Let’s admit this and revel in it. Though it might make some people nervous, it actually cushions us in a genetic continuity of expression, and what could be more reassuring?” — Rick Prelinger (via Full-Stop.net)
“My cell rang and it was my agent on the other end with the news [that my novel had been acquired by Harper Collins]. I started to laugh like crazy in the paper goods aisle, until tears came to my eyes. Here was the moment I had been waiting for, and I was surrounded by super-size packages of toilet paper and paper towels. This should have been a warning: I was so not prepared for what was about to happen.” — Robin Antalek
“I recommend [writers] pay attention to their dreams. For me, it’s like an idea garden. You can weed it later, but not if you don’t remember what you’ve been dreaming.” — Ann Aguirre