Flowers of Rhetoric
The art of persuasion. Used by the greatest writers in history. Kept secret, until one was ready to use them consciously and responsibly. The Flowers of Rhetoric are powerful techniques, or rather universal principles used to get and hold people’s attention. When used properly they can make words come so alive that people feel they are inside a total fabrication of the authors imagination.
On the other hand, when they’re used without really understanding how and why they work, the author can ruin a potentially great story. Let me start with one example that even amateur writers naturally use and subconsciously understand.
Alliteration. This is essentially creating a repetitive pattern. For example: The wind whispered, telling wondrous tales, and waited for someone to listen. The words wind, whispered, wondrous and waited, all start with a W.
People are wired for pattern recognition. I think this has to do with our biological, hunter gathering instinct. We subconsciously scan for patterns and constantly make small, short term predictions. When we find a pattern, or when our predictions are correct, our reward system starts flooding your system with happy chemicals, that also enhance performance.
When you read something, do you ever wonder why it grabs your attention? Why it sucks you in and has the power to transport you to another place…If you do this, you probably already know a lot of these principles. The key to apply knowledge at any time, at will, is to make it conscious and to formulate it in a way that works for you. This formulation then acts as the key to a set of skills, rather than lifeless information. There are potentially infinite ways to formulate any kind of understanding. One person might use words, whereas another prefers sound, feelings or images.
…When you truly understand something, you will remember it.
Ask yourself, why does this sentence, paragraph or page make me feel a certain way? It’s not about making the reader feel good, but to make them embody your words. A good thriller can make people feel exited, to the point it turns into fear. What’s important is to recognize when to dial it down. If you use the Flowers of Rhetoric in every sentence, it only works for so long. After about 20 minutes of intense excitement and focus, the body stops serving cocktails of ‘happy, performance enhancing chemicals’. Cartoons are often around 20 minutes long. Japanese anime (animation) series tend to bombard you with novelty. So much so, that you need a break before watching the next episode. The same applies to books, presentations, music, movies, games and so forth.
…The beauty of the Flowers of Rhetoric is that they tap into the core of our being. They work very well, no matter where you are on the planet.
Hyperbaton: The scrambling of word order. Example: Fear me not, for I come in peace. Using this principle, the reader has to unscramble the words like solving a little puzzle. This is tremendously rewarding, because it feels effortless, yet it isn’t. It’s a good idea to assume the reader is not stupid. Let them fill the gaps and use their intelligence and imagination.
The ugly nose: This is when the author builds trust with the reader by implying he is just a human being, and he might reveal a personal weakness or weirdness. It may seem genuine, and it probably is. Professional writers often use this as a tactic and place it super strategically.
Sprezzatura: Meaning ‘naturalness of speech’. This naturalness is often completely unnatural and is used to appear natural. It might feel as if the writer speaks like this too. It’s often a trick authors use intelligently and with a clear purpose: To get your attention. Persuade you…
You can discover many more of these principles, and even create your own. This is where it gets fun and where you encounter the infinity of art and beauty. One flower I found recently, indirectly answers a question with another question: Does it make sense to cry without being sad? Or to cry when you’re happy? The second question indirectly reveals the answer to the first. It does make sense. Anyone who ever cried out of happiness knows this. If you haven’t noticed yet, in this article I’ve used these principles to get your attention, all the way to the last word.
One more secret, to end with. A creative genius doesn’t rely on inspiration. You can be creative without inspiration. Much of the greatest art is made strategically and methodically. In the end it’s about doing it. Authors write a lot. Film makers work on films. Comedians write jokes, often daily. Hunter Thompson, a genius author put it like this:
”Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio”
– Hunter S. Thompson