Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Art and History of WRITING In 10 Minutes

 Tick, Tick, Tick!

Writing is an important part of our world. From its earliest beginnings in Africa and the Middle East, to its influence on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of countless individuals throughout history and today, it has played a vital part in shaping and defining the world we know. Among the vast varieties of styles, techniques, and genres of writing, exists an art that many love and are proud to call their vocation.


The first writing originated in Egypt and Sumer, although it cannot be stated for sure which place is credited with truly being first. The oldest Sumerian and Egyptian scripts have both been dated around 3200 B.C. Sumerian writing was called cuneiform, from the Latin word "cuneus" (wedge), because it was made up of wedge-shaped marks, formed by a sharply cut reed that was pressed in wet clay. The other early form of writing was Egyptian picture writing, known as hieroglyphs. This was eventually written on papyrus, an early kind of paper. The last of early civilizations to develop writing was China, circa 1600 B.C.

The next most significant advancement in writing, after it was invented, was the move to a phonetic system. This began with the Phoenicians in the 15th century B.C. It was further developed and expanded by the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and many others for their respective languages. The Roman alphabet became what we use today in English.
 Phoenician alphabet

In early Medieval Europe, books were expensive and written by hand by a trained scribe; usually a monk. At first, all books were written in Latin, but then people began writing in common tongues. In the 1400s, a German named Johann Gutenberg first invented the printing press. His invention changed the world; especially the world of writing. People who could never afford books suddenly could. Ideas traveled faster and more cheaply.
 A printing press

In the early 1600s, the book Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes in Spain. Although not all scholars agree, many identify it as the first modern novel. Don Quixote inspired writers to write adventure novels, paving the way for authors like Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Twain, and innumerable others. 
 Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes

Modern writing techniques differ according to the type of writing. In a short story, for an example, there should be a small handful of characters that are developed rapidly, a simple subject that lets the story take place in a brief amount of time, and a strong, satisfactory ending. By contrast, a novel typically has a more complex plot and a wide variety of characters. Good, well-developed characters are vital to the success of any story, but especially to a novel. According to The Everything Creative Writing Book by Carol Whitely, "Three-dimensional, intriguing, standout characters can make or break a novel."1
Poetry has its own set of rules when it comes to writing; in fact, the main rule of poetry is that it has no rules. Rather, it is written and defined however a poet wants to write or define it. Typically, however, poetry is written in lines, and falls under one of three major types: descriptive or dramatic, which describes a scene, sound, person, or feeling; narrative, which tells a story; and lyric, which expresses personal feelings and thoughts. Some techniques used in poetry include alliteration, allusion, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification, and simile. 

Nonfictional writing can be just as creative as fictional writing, although it has some of its own rules. For an example, research is one of the most important aspects of nonfiction, especially functional nonfiction like letters to the editor, reviews, opinion pieces, and advertisement or marketing materials. At the same time, nonfiction can be made stronger with many of the same techniques as fiction, such as personification, similes and metaphors, dialog and description. Nonfiction can also by strengthened by making it relevant to the reader, adding intrigue, writing with passion and emotion, and including interesting, unusual information.
Writing is a vast subject and cannot be adequately covered in a short amount of space. However, it only takes a brief glance at its art and history to see its importance in our world.

Note to fellow writers --> Recommended reading: The Everything Creative Writing Book by Carol Whitely!

1 Whiteley, Carol. The Everything Creative Writing Book. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2002, page 32

Other sources consulted:

* Burch, Joann Johansen. Fine Print: A Story About Johann Gutenberg. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1991
* Carr, Karen, Dr. "Medieval Literature." 21 October 2010. http://www.histo
* "History of Writing."
* "Who Was the First Person to Write a Modern Novel?"

-modern-novel> (accessed 13 November 2010)