Writer as Artist

Coho Ferry - by Howard Feigenbaum ©2007, all rights reserved

Coho Ferry

The Writer as Artist

Creativity and format shape the writer’s work. The story depends on the ideas the writer brings to the page. The rules of English composition, grammar and punctuation affect readability. How frustrating. If only I could transmit ideas to the reader without paying attention to the rules.

A comparison of writing to painting is worthwhile. I have had the good fortune to learn the visual arts, photography and painting. My fifth grade art teacher, after a year of seeing my drawing and painting, said that I shouldn’t continue with art. I believed her until later in life when photography, then painting, held my interest. Her words still lived in my mind until I discovered that talent wasn’t required for art. One had to learn the rules and apply the lessons. Practice, in my case, did not lead to perfection—but it brought me a heck of a lot closer.

I realized that the images I sought to portray depended on attracting and holding the viewer’s attention through the use of colors, values, contrast and composition. Easy to say, but hard to do. You must give yourself over to the medium. Why do artists do that? Above all, they want to communicate an idea. For the devoted among us, the journey may lead down the path to mastery.

Everyone has access to paper and pencil, but not everyone will be an artist. Some will be dilettantes, having a superficial interest that culminates in a hobby.

What makes the writer an artist? I believe it’s the individual’s dedication to the process of fusing creativity with structure and understanding what appeals to the audience—peppered with inspiration.

We sort ourselves out. Nobody says who can be or can’t be an artist or a writer. No license required. But, in the end, we know.


A Tale’s Sense of Place.

Istanbul - photograph © 2011 by Howard FeigenbaumThe Art of Being There in Fiction.

I have found that the best way to bring a sense of place to readers is through research. The characters may be fictitious, but the reality of location makes the story more interesting and believable.

Many people enjoy reading novels that are set in places they visit. I am one of them. In my youth, I read about the ancient Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. The story stoked my desire to see the place for myself. When I visited the ancient ruins, it was like enjoying an impressionist painting. The structural foundation was there, and my knowledge completed the picture.

Much of the action in the first volume of my Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” series takes place in Colombia. I researched the locations, the history, the culture, and the food. The next year, after the book’s publication, my wife and I had the good fortune to visit Cartagena. We hired a driver to take us on a tour of the city, stopping at places described in the book. He heard me informing my wife, in detail, about the sites. “You have been here before?” he asked. I explained that I was an author. My mind had been here before. This was the first time for my body.

A story can be more than a story. It can morph into a three-dimensional experience that comes alive when you visit the setting—but only if the writer’s research is woven into the tale’s fabric.