My Weird Theory About Writing

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One of the habits I noticed I had, long before I really thought about the reasons for it, is that I tend to spend a long time looking for particular words when I write. I’ve got a pretty big vocabulary, so I do have a lot of synonyms to choose from in most situations, but I’ll spend quite a while looking for a very specific word with a very specific connotation and emotional resonance when I’m writing a story… or even a blog post, to be honest.

It’s not the only stylistic habit I have, either. I notice that I really love making those lists of three; when I’m trying to linger on a moment and give it greater weight, I tend to emphasize three aspects of it in rapid succession. Like if someone is losing control to a hypnotist, I might write, “They couldn’t control their breath, they couldn’t control their stare, they couldn’t control their mind as it slipped away into trance.” There are other habits I have – I’ll leave the details as an exercise for the reader – but it wasn’t until I started writing inductions as a formal intention that I realized what I was doing.

(As opposed to writing very realistic hypnotic monologues. Seriously, my first induction piece, ‘Imagine’, was me trying to write a short story that was all one long speech with no descriptions. It wasn’t until Lady Ru’etha recorded it that I realized what I’d done.)

But anyway, the point is, when I wrote hypnotic inductions, I really found that not much had changed. I was still writing the same way, just with a different goal. And then it hit me – all those times people had used ‘getting lost in a good book’ as an example of a trance that was natural, instead of specifically induced, to show how anyone could be hypnotized? I was reverse engineering the process.

Literally. When you think about it, a writer is doing nothing more than crafting a very specific form of hypnotic induction designed to guide the audience into a fantasy sequence in which they imagine themselves to be experiencing the events on the page. That’s it. That’s the goal. We are trying to induce the same trance state as a hypnotist, but with a different set of priorities and instructions. A good hypnotist can become a good writer simply by trying to craft trancey language.

Now obviously, that isn’t the same kind of trancey language that you use when directly creating an induction. It’s going to be a bit weird when the sellsword mercenary on the way to get her revenge on the wizards who killed her parents spends a lot of her time thinking about how sleepy and drowsy she’s getting. But you do want to write using language that has a flow and a rhythm and a pace that draws the reader along from one word to the next and makes it effortless and automatic to keep following the words on the page without really having to work at it.

Think about it – how many times have you read a scene with a particularly inept or ill-chosen turn of phrase and been ‘thrown out of the story’? How many times have you finished a chapter and felt like you just couldn’t stop yourself from reading another? How many times have you gotten to the end of a book and realized that hours have passed and you didn’t even notice? We use those things as examples of trance to help people analogize to hypnosis, but they’re useful in their own right.

So yes. If you want to be a good writer, study hypnosis! It’ll improve your work… and if it doesn’t, you can always persuade people to give you better reviews.

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