I gave a lot of thought about whether I would write this piece. It was not a question of whether I could, but whether or not it would be able to adequately express the complexities involved in playful writing. After all, a blog is, by its very nature, a straight-forward presentation of words, thoughts, and discussion communicated through a fairly simplistic word processor. Playful writing often goes outside those boundaries, and I would have few tools available to demonstrate just how this works. Well, I decided to give it a try. Good luck to me.
- "Well, Tom said he would be here at exactly seven."
- "Well, Tom said he would be here at EXACTLY seven."
Both lines communicates a basic idea. The second one, however, makes the verb "said" stand out as a dubious point, and we can almost hear the character yelling, "EXACTLY" in our head. This is the first step in playful writing - going beyond just words to do our communicating.
To truly step into the realm of playful writing, we need to slowly lose track of the boundaries we confine ourselves to on a word processor and see how our new shapes and form change the meaning. What happens if when we write a paragraph, each line has narrower margins than the last, causing the words to eventually form a point at the end? Does this bring emphasis to that last word, or does all the extra white space consume the ideas? What if each word skips down one line but retains its horizontal place on the page, creating a visual staircase? Does this add to the reader's experience, expressing a sense of movement or descent? What if the lines didn't just march left-to-right on the page, but followed some imaginary, curving line? What do these nuances create other than a headache for the writer trying to create them?
We often see this technique used in more visually engaging poetry, from kids books all the way to the works of e e cummings (shown above) and all points in between. This form takes the reader out of the standard reading routine of taking in words, processing words, then taking in more words, and introduces imagery as its own separate language. This is a little more difficult to do in novels, but let's not forget some of the effect we get from something as simple as all caps or italics, or the controversial "?!" (often called the "interrobang," used to express a very loud question, it is actually not a standard writing convention).
Just remember that there are a lot of ways to express emotions and moods that break away from just using our words. Maybe it shouldn't be tried in a term paper, but when you are in the mood to try something new, there are plenty of ways to play around with these things we call words.