Last week we explored the essentials of clustering as taught by Dr. Rico in, Writing the Natural Way.
This week I want to expand on the basic idea of clustering to include some new elements for your consideration. This is pretty much a right brain exercise, and, as such, it will require you to keep your left brain in timeout for a bit longer.
The four elements that we want to add to the initial cluster are these: 1) line, 2) color, 3) texture, 4) mass.
Each of these should begin a new string emanating from the nucleus word at the center of the cluster.
Here’s how it works: draw four lines out from the nucleus word. We will call each one of these extended lines a string. Each element on the string is a “pearl.”
Now draw a circle at the end of the first line/string, and inside that circle write the word, “line.” That’s the first pearl on that string. Then draw a three more circles at the ends of each of the other strings and write the words, “color,” “texture,” and “mass” in each one.
Here’s a graphic that illustrates what it should look like using “Heaven” as a nucleus word:
Each new element will engender a host of other ideas — song fragments, pictures, quotes from old movies, and other sensate images. Here’s how these new elements of line, color, texture, and mass influence your writing.
Line — the shape of the drawn line suggests several things. “Heaven’s” line suggests to me an upward, slingshot movement. My writing is going to reflect, at least in part, this kinetic, ascending kind of structure and language.
Color — every person who can sense color brings baggage to the table when it comes to relating color to abstract concepts such as “heaven,” We may have been influenced by songs or biblical narratives that mention “streets of gold.” We may have seen paintings that depict heaven as golden-hued. But I may explore other colors, like the “cobalt blue” suggested in my cluster above. I bring a wagonload of positive associations to my vision of heaven as cobalt blue. This isn’t to say that you have to make everything (or anything) blue, or gold in your piece. But thinking of heaven in terms of gold, or blue or (fill in the blank with your color), will influence your word choice — simply because specific colors mean so much to each of us.
Texture — to me “heaven” makes me think of golden burnished leather. That image in itself is so rich. It has color, and an aroma as well as the texture of supple leather, which I love. The more multi-sensory the image, the better.
Mass — “heaven” to me is as light as a small child. Evan in my arms is, I think, a foretaste of the mass, the weight, of heaven.
Line, color, texture, mass —four doors that will open onto worlds of connections. Push into specificity. Refuse to be satisfied with a generic “pearl.” Try your best to make each string end with something tangible.
Then, look for those unexpected connections!