Layout Image

Essential Frames: 10 Ways to Frame Your Words

Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame. ~ G K Chesterton

I mentioned the concept of frames a while back in a post on how blogging helps us get to the heart of things.

I started to write through the medium of a blog, and from there, I started looking for frames – the hooks, the opening lines, the prism, the frame through which I could invite you in and look.

Some people said it would be interesting to hear more on frames and I thought I’d finish the serious bit of the essential writing series with some thought on how framing works, and how you can get it to work for you.

10 Ways to Frame Your Words

1. A frame increases impact.  You can heighten the effect of your words by adding a strong frame, like an attention grabbing headline.  Think about what happens when you put some photographs or pictures on a frame - they suddenly stand out more.

2. You are always framing.  You don’t just add a frame at the end, you’re doing it all the time.  When you’re taking a photo you use the frame of the lens, the view-finder, to capture your shot.  You’re making a choice about what to put in, and what to leave out.  The same in writing.

3.A blog post is a frame.  So’s a haiku.  So’s a 140 character message.  It provides the structure for your words to go into.

4.  Think about the size of the container you’re pouring your words into.  Think about the amount of time and mental energy your readers have, and construct the container, the frame, accordingly.

5. Framing means making choices about what goes in and what stays out.  Work to make those choices more conscious and more deliberate.

6. Try cutting more than you’re used to.  And cut again.  What can you see now?

7. Approach your subject from a different angle.  What do you see?  What can you show your reader now?

8. The frame is like a doorway. As you narrow the opening you invite your readers in: to see something different, to shift their perspective, to catch a glimpse of something new.  Open and close with effect.

9. Be curious.  The more you look consciously, through the frame of your writing eyes, the more you will notice.  The more different angles and perspectives you will find.  The more things you will want to share.

10. Get clear on your pointWhat is that you’re framing? What is that you want us to see, hear, feel, think, imagine?

Your point of view is unique.  It’s valuable. It’s fascinating. Show us what you can see.

I’m still feeling my way through how this works so please do chip in with thoughts.  Do you know how you use framing in words, in photography, in painting?

Can you think of ways to apply those skills and techniques to the writing process?

Share on Twitter


  1. Iain Broome - Write for Your Life
    Twitter: iainbroome

    I think my frame is always the concept behind what I’m writing - the point of it, the message I’m trying to convey. And that’s probably true for blog posts and copywriting as much as it is for, say, a chapter of my novel. I’ll always try and ‘frame’ whatever I’m scribbling by what it is I’m trying to get across. Any meandering away from that and I’m, well, it becomes a rather wonky frame!
    .-= Iain Broome - Write for Your Life´s last blog ..7 tips to help you become a better fact checker =-.

  2. Robert Hruzek says:

    This is one of those principles that’s so basic and unconscious it makes you wonk your forhead and go “Yeah, that’s what I’m doin’ here!”

    Excellent points, all, Joanna! Although in point #3 I think you mean “limits” instead of “structure”. ;-) Or do you?
    .-= Robert Hruzek´s last blog ..Just Call Me King! =-.

  3. --Deb says:

    Joanna, those pictures are gorgeous. Are they yours? Where is that?
    .-= -Deb´s last blog ..I Am Woman, Hear Me Blog =-.

  4. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, I love the photo! I love this concept of framing as it applies to our work, #s 4 and 5 were particularly strong for me. The size of the frame does indeed impact our choice of what goes in - we don’t necessarily throw out the frame but we search for the right picture, photo or words to fit.That of course ties into #5 making choices. Really makes me examine what, how and where I write in a different light.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..The 5 Things I Hate About Social Media | Search Engine People Blog =-.

  5. Rebecca Little says:

    I think about frames all the time because I am a photographer. But framing your words? Hmmm… my mind is turning this over. I love “the frame is like a doorway”.

  6. Bo Mackison says:

    Yes, a frame can be a door. Sometimes I think of framing as limiting, but I love the idea of a frame being a portal into your ideas, perspectives. Framing directs attention, calls out for focus. Always a good thing.
    .-= Bo Mackison´s last blog ..Winter Perspective =-.

  7. Sheila Glazov
    Twitter: yourbraincolor

    A most thought provoking prespective. I am going to make time to anaylyze my words and examine the focus of my work. Thank you, Joanna.

  8. uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by PublishingGuru: Essential Frames: 10 Ways to Frame Your Words

  9. Wendi Kelly~Life's Little Inspirations says:


    I feel as if I should give myself a whack on the side of the head. OF COURSE we should do this…and I guess we do, but do I think about it as creatively and purposely in the present moment of my creation when I’m there?

    Um…I’m not liking the honest answer. This is very thought provoking.

    Several years ago in an art class, our teacher made us take the charcoal, put it in the less dominate hand, light a candle, turn out the lights and then begin drawing the image placed before us. Once the charcoal was down on paper it could never be lifted again until we were finished.

    I have thought about this experience many many times, because it taught us to see what was really there-instead of what we think we see. Framing does the same thing- it sharpens the focus until you can only concentrate on one thing.

    Lots to think about. Thanks… Oh and your art? Breathtaking.

  10. Janice Cartier says:

    Ohh Joanna… uncanny…the new piece I drew last week to put on my schedule is from a series of window views in Santa Fe….there’s something intimate yet timeless about the restriction….containment for expansion…is the theme of the series…
    I am again amazed how closely in step we are….:)
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..Abundance =-.

  11. Cat Woods says:

    What a great post.

    I love your idea of frames being like containers. What size am I writing and how does that impact the “picture” I put inside? I definitely write differently depending on the container.

    If I seriously consider it, I guess my writing is a like a circular frame. I love for things to come full circle. This unconscious preference makes it easier for me to fill in the words. What I start with-title, hook, etc-is echoed at the end.

    Probably the easiest way to see that is in my blog posts, as they are bite-sized. Yet even in my chapter books and middle grade manuscripts, I see the clear echoes in the first paragraph and the last paragraph.

    Interesting concept to ponder!
    .-= Cat Woods´s last blog ..My Holiday Gift to You =-.

  12. Meryl K Evans says:

    As soon as I finish reading it and start to form my response… only to find out Robert echoed my thoughts exactly. Tip o’ the hat to my fellow Texan: “This is one of those principles that’s so basic and unconscious it makes you wonk your forehead and go ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m doin’ here!’”

    PS Gorgeous photos as always, Ms. Joanna.
    .-= Meryl K Evans´s last blog ..50+ Writer Uses for Facebook =-.

  13. web writer says:

    Insightful… First time for me to read this angle about Writing-unconsciously perhaps, we all have been doing this “framing,” but to put it into words is pure brilliance.

  14. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @ Iain, in some ways I think that’s what the essence of writing is. Some people seem to do it naturally and without thought. I get the sense you’re one of them ;-)

    @ Robert, I know. It’s interesting to read the comments though - mixed between the ‘of course’ and ‘okay, I can see how that might make a difference’. Always interests me to see how we all approach the same task in different ways! Re point #3… I think I mean structure. But do I? ;-)

    @ -Deb, yes they are - sorry should have included an explanation. Top one is from Skye, an old ruined church at a place called Trumpan. Second one is a ruined oriory on an island in a loch in the Trossachs (central Scotland) - Inchmahome

  15. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @ Karen, glad you liked the photo. I hope that the reminder to make choices helps awaken writerly energy - it’s the bit about your point of view being endlessly fascinating… which it is, if only we could all stop holding ourselves back!

    @ Rebecca, I’d love to hear where your mind takes you on this. I’m sure there are things we can learn from frames in photography, I just can’t quite put my finger on what!

    @ Bo, glad you like the portal idea. You manage that so well on your own blog. I particularly enjoy those posts which draw us in with a few well chosen words as well as the photograph.

    @ Sheila, my pleasure. Thank you for all the feedback and support.

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @ Wendi, what a great example from the art class… love the idea of sharpening down until there’s just that one thing, that one most important thing that you know you have to write, create, share, breathe life into… Thanks for the feedback on the photos too x

    @Janice, uncanny indeed. Containment for expansion… perfect. Maybe a good reminder for the new year too?

    @ Cat, wow, I’d never really thought about different shapes as well as different sizes before… I know just what you mean about the circles. I think that’s what I (unconsciously) use too. Much food for thought, thank you.

    @ Meryl, as I said to the smart Texan… yep, some people just seem to do this instinctively :-) Glad you liked the photos.

    @ web writer, thanks. Brilliance.. not at all sure. Just trying to learn from and explore different ideas. Thanks for the feedback anyway.

  17. Words on a page » Blog Archive » A few links for the end of the week - A blog about writing, in its various forms says:

    [...] 10 ways to frame your words [...]