Dynamic is a big promise! Luckily, it is easy enough to undertake—most writers just need a few examples and a bit of explanation and BAM! It comes down to three major categories: images and imagination, word choice (diction), and placement.
Images and Imagination
You are looking at a tree. What do you associate with it? Green, brown, tall—what if you kept that associative process but got closer—magnifying your images. Rough? The bark would be rough, leaves could be silky—that could create all sorts of possibilities. Silk like linen, clothes, nature could clothe you—maybe? If you follow associations, your mind will lead you down mysterious and wonderous paths. Just daydreaming and free associating can create fresh images. Everyone thinks and daydreams differently, so those associations and descriptions will be vastly different for every writer. THIS is terrific news! It boggles the mind that just from daydreaming words become captivating and paragraphs and lines no longer feel “stale” or “cliché.”
Exercise: Look at something you see every day. Describe it differently this time. That tree is tall and green, but looms like a giant about to enfold you in its arms… etc. Look at the minuscule that is overlooked or the magnitude that gets lost in the everyday. Let your mind just go. Remember in writing, there are no wrong answers, just unwritten ones.
Word Choice (Diction)
Word choice (diction) can create incredible images in any genre. So, diction—now what? What difference does using the word “hazel” instead of “brown” create? It may make your piece sparkle a bit more. But, if the color is not hazel, and it must be brown—how can you get around being flat? I do not like food references and certainly not when describing people. I would say “glistening brown” or “purpling brown” if describing fruit. The other use of diction is using words that are not normally used in that context. So, what if an angry person’s “brow purpled”—that’s not “turned red”—that of course, is a well-used (cliché).
Kim’s Pro Tip: If you get stuck on finding the “right” word or the “perfect” word—know that there isn’t one. There are just multiple choices for the right word. You can open a physical thesaurus or an online version—they are more exact. But if you want to free-associate and find a “different” word—then go into your document, choose the thesaurus function—and DON’T use those words on the list. Is there one that might work? Hit on it. There are most likely five different branches of what the word could mean as well as the words associated with it. Maybe you will find your “perfect” word here, maybe you won’t. Hit on another—maybe one that is not as similar to your original word that you typed in. I find that it is in this place—maybe five or six clicks through that I find the “perfect” word for the “right now”—because revision might strip the line out completely. Poetry is not permanent, which means you can play with words as many times as you need to.
Write down five words you use a lot. Then, try to find synonyms or substitutes that pop! Remember you can dig for words using Kim’s Pro Tip.
Placement means everything in a poem. Having a “hard” word (one that has a harsh or biting sound) hit in a soft place draws attention and its opposite does as well. The same technique works in prose. When you read your work, you can hear how some words “flow smoothly” and others might be “jagged” or “rugged.” The key reason is placement. Think about setting a table. It might not matter which side silverware is on, but what if the fork is placed on top of the bowl—would you notice? The same is true of writing.
Kim fell into darkness spiraling awake.
Well, that might be true—but is “awake” in the right place?
Kim fell into darkness falling awake. Better—a bit speculative if you like that.
Awake, Kim fell into darkness, spiraling. Doesn’t that sound different?
Each one can be argued to have a different connotation—but we are going on sound.
Take a line or a sentence that has been bothering you. Rearrange the words. Play with them. Keep the necessary ones and see if you can make the sound smooth.