Writing Tips

9 Authors And 9 Aspects Of Powerful Writing: Guest Post By Damien Riley

Powerful writing: how much do you read nowadays on the internet? Mostly, when I read blogs in my “travels,” I don’t expect much powerful writing. Instead, I’ve learned to look for widget ideas, graphics stuff, and new features I haven’t yet heard about. That’s sad I think. I think my focus needs to change.

Publishing has become possible in the 2000′s for millions now through blogs and the internet. There should be a cavalcade of powerful words out there. I believe wholeheartedly that powerful writing is better than the best “gimmick” out there claiming to bring your blog more traffic. Maybe the reason we spend so much time on these foolish gimmicks is because we’ve forgotten what powerful writing is.

As a daily writer online, published author in real books, teacher, and MA of English, I have my opinions. When I saw this writing opportunity, I decided I wanted to quote some great authors for my reader. As I researched, the quotations extant proved beyond abundant. I managed to narrow them down to nine authors and nine aspects of powerful writing.

1. Use metaphors. Robert Frost: The Road not Taken is so much more than a road. “2 roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”

2. Be brief. William Carlos Williams: At 4 short lines in length, The Red Wheelbarrow is one of the shortest poems in literature, and yet so full of truth.

3. Be an artist. Henry James: In his The Art of Fiction, Henry James says so much about writing and being received through artistry.

4. Be unique. John Dos Passos: A largely unknown writer about America and the 1920′s, this guy is my favorite author. I discovered him my last year of my undergrad work in English Lit. He writes in a newsreel format… very powerful… like no one else I’ve ever read.

5. Use similes. Ernest Hemingway: Hills Like White Elephants takes on meaning after meaning, person after person. When I taught freshman college writing for a few semesters I was always amazed at what people thought these things represented.

6. Write about humanity. Arthur Miller: Have you ever read Death of a Salesman? Have you ever felt Death of a Salesman?

7. Be exciting. Jack London: Swashbuckling may not be the adjective for every blog post, but summon the spirit of Jack London’s White Fang when you fire up your blog screen next time.

8. Have a deeper meaning. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain): I had a professor when I started college who said that Mark Twain used ordinary stories to say things that were horrifying and dark about humanity. I thought he was nuts … until I got bit older. Say something deep without saying it outright, that’s Mark Twain’s contribution to my idea of powerful writing.

9. (Fill in the blank). YOU! Now that you’ve read these authors and aspects of powerful writing, use them man or come up with your own.

What is in the powerful writing that you run across?

Let me introduce you to Damien: Damien Riley, author, teacher and dad, keeps an eye on pop culture, the news, and humor all around us. His blog, Postcards from the Funny Farm, covers topics including teaching, inspiration, humor, and psychology. Damien is married to Sarah, also a teacher and blogger and together they have 3 children.

Thanks Damien for picking up the challenge and sharing your thoughts on what powerful writing means to you.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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14 Responses to “9 Authors And 9 Aspects Of Powerful Writing: Guest Post By Damien Riley”

  1. On April 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm Jim Murdoch responded with... #

    There aren’t many new truths so one of the things an author needs to be able to do is present old truths in new ways. This is where science fiction writers have a much broader pallet than other writers. Take ‘Fahrenheit 451′ for example which presents the reader with a powerful extended metaphor and allows him to explore it in depth. The whole idea behind the word ‘novel’ is that it should be new and so, if we can’t think of anything brand new, we need to spruce up something old to make it feel new, to reinvigorate it with power. Of course this problem is not unique to novelists.

  2. On April 18, 2008 at 4:41 pm Damien Riley responded with... #

    What an excellent example. In some ways, it’s all ‘Fahrenheit’ 451 is it not? Sounds like a “hot” future post idea! Thank you for the comment Jim.

  3. On April 18, 2008 at 6:48 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks again Damien for guest writing here. I really enjoyed this post. Particularly liked the reminder to write about humanity and the follow up question:

    Have you ever *felt* Death of a Salesman?

    Powerful stuff!


  4. On April 18, 2008 at 11:33 pm Damien Riley responded with... #


    The best dramas are the ones we play in our heads (as opposed to watching on television) and when we share them with others through writing it is powerful. Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” is Arthur Miller’s mind laid out in plain sight in 1949:

    Extremely dark if you choose to look there, extremely human if you’re looking for that. Maybe the two are connected? Much literature would indicate so. Imagine if the guy had a blog in 1949? uhhhh: he’d be on my blogroll, RSS Feed and I would Stumble him from every username I could create.

    Thank you again for the opportunity. Confident Writing is one of my favorite blogs. -D

  5. On April 19, 2008 at 3:16 am Karen Swim responded with... #

    Damien,this was a great post. As I read your list I felt the urge to pick up my favorite classics and read them again. It’s so easy to focus on the art of blogging that we can forget the art of writing. My new goal is to rock my blog like Hemingway. Thanks for the awesome teaching on powerful writing.

  6. On April 19, 2008 at 3:36 am Kimberly Clay responded with... #

    I enjoyed reading this article, and finding this blog (I was following Damien). Great blog, by the way, Joanna.

    My one comment is about this particular statement within the post:

    “Maybe the reason we spend so much time on these foolish gimmicks is because we’ve forgotten what powerful writing is…”

    Being a writer myself, as well as an avid reader (yeah, like I really have time for that anymore), I think the situation is much more dire. The quality of writing largely found on Internet blogs is a result of writers with little or previous no writing skills as opposed to having forgotten what powerful writing is.

    The one great thing about the Internet and blogging is that anyone can write and be published. The one terrible thing about the Internet and blogging is that anyone can write and be published.

    There are a great many people who rely on gimmicks, especially in niches such as Internet marketing where I spend a great deal of my time, simply because that’s all they’ve got. It’s not that they have forgotten powerful writing; sadly, they’ve never been introduced to it.

  7. On April 19, 2008 at 10:11 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Kimberly, thanks for coming over from Damien’s blog.

    Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon days of naivete, but at the moment I’m still in the camp of thinking it’s fantastic that people have access to these publishing tools regardless of background, education or previous experience. Of course that means there’s a lot of rubbish out there whether in style or content or value - but that just means we need to learn to be more discerning as readers, and go hunting for those things that *will* give us that sense of impact, power and connection.

    Thanks for stopping by


  8. On April 19, 2008 at 7:06 pm Damien Riley responded with... #

    @Karen Swim: Thank you so much for your comment. It has absolutely made my day.

    @Kimberly: I hear you and agree with both you and Joanna about universal publishing in the 2000′s. Thank you for stopping by Joanna’s site and leaving a comment. I think the quote you referenced is a device I used to gain the attention of those who want more out of writing. The people you refer to who have never read a quality novel etc., they are probably not going to read any further. On the other hand, when you compliment the audeince by using “we” you are saying: “I’m just like yo, no higher or lower and I want to SHOW you something awesome about writing.” In church terms you may have heard it as “those who have ears to hear.” Sounds like you heard what I was sayin! Hopefully more people out there did as well. Powerful writing makes the internet rock.

    @Joanna: The thing you want the most when you guest post is for the blog to get traffic. I hope that has happened with this one. It was an honor to write at Confident Writing. If you ever have a psychology or inspiration topic that you want to reach out with, my humble blog is always open to you!

  9. On April 21, 2008 at 1:42 pm amypalko responded with... #

    Some of my favourite authors are the modernists: Woolf, Eliot, Ford, Mansfield, Lawrence. I try and take the modernist manifesto coined by Ezra Pound, “Make It New!” as my mantra when I write. I find it boosts the power of my words.
    Great post, Damien!

  10. On April 21, 2008 at 5:04 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Amy, that’s an interesting comment on ‘make it new!’

    I think I might find that mantra daunting rather than empowering… but maybe it depends on the frame of mind and the mood that I’m in in…

    A sluggish Monday might not be the best time to tell :-)


  11. On April 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm Debbie Yost responded with... #

    Hi Damien,
    These are some really good points and ones I’ll try to keep in mind. My favorite is keep it brief. Early on in my blog someone told me that and at first I thought I wanted to be able to write as much as I felt necessary, but I’m finding that brief is better. It makes a more powerful impact and people actually will read it. If you get too lengthy, people will start skimming and missing some of what you said. They may miss something important and you may lose a reader.

  12. On April 22, 2008 at 1:17 am Terry Finley responded with... #

    I like the YOU part.

  13. On April 22, 2008 at 9:25 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hmm, so what would YOUR definition be…?

    You’re welcome to come back and ahare it :-)




  1. 9 Aspects of Classic Great Writing - August 2, 2010

    [...] one that was under a “reusable media” license. That is kind of a metaphor for what my 9 Authors, 9 Aspects of Powerful Writing guest post is about over at Confident Writing. One commenter there, Jim Murdoch, says eloquently: [...]

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