I’m working a lot lately on creating stories that follow my understanding of an “impressionistic writing style.”

Impressionism as manifest in Scene; Character; Action; Sensation; and Style.

This is, you see, part of the Jessica Lake MFA I’m enrolled in. The internet and my writing group, the reading I do, my readers and editors are the instructors. I am definitely the coolest guy in my MFA. In fact, I’m the only guy in my MFA, but then, I always avoid giving statistics too much credence.

The overriding rules go a little like a Lightnin’ Hopkins song — there’s some improvisation involved as you go along:

  1. Writen in the present, without reflection or authorial comment
  2. No narrative intrusions of any kind — the story simply unfolds in the reader’s mind
  3. Choice of words is left to “Mot juste” or a sense of using just the “right” word that contributes to the totality of the piece without undue attention to the beauty of the prose.

Scene — a reportorial flow, objective, use of understatement and simple words, clear imagery, repetition and reiteration of key words and phrases, strong description of action, use of landscape to echo emotion… the last bit suggested by author and writing instructor Lauren Carter of Winnipeg.

Character — describe traits or activities, but not physical attributes

Action — up close and participatory with reader as onlooker, cinematic: rapid (fluttering) or slow motion and may utilize a bird’s-eye view from above that is clipped and declarative

Sensation — actions are felt by the reader, be concrete and crude, be simple and realistic, work the senses

Style — author should express their individuality as a writer (untarnished), focus always on the subject and what the subject experiences, use the iceberg technique to hide the worst and only show the surface — the tip — of what is wrong, and ala Hemingway and Manitoba memoirist Donna Besel, write slow and clear about the most terrible and the most hurtful.

Note: A good deal of this came from a doctoral thesis (from a few decades ago) I found on the web and now cannot relocate to cite. Acch. Quite a bit is of my own invention so… maybe the no citation is okay here. If you recognize it, lemme know!

4 thoughts on “Jessica Lake IMPRESSIONISM

  1. HI, Mitch, This is such a great resource for anyone who is interested in writing or responsible for teaching writing in our classrooms. Thanks for sharing your thinking and your approach. I have been passing on your name/ideas to some of my keener student teachers. I am hoping that they will follow up and perhaps extend an invitation for you to make a presentation in their class.

    We’ll see how that goes… Irene


  2. Good to hear you are alive and well Mitch. Hopefully your wife is recovering nicely from her ankle mishap.
    I survived Winterpeg – had wonderful weather until the last day when I departed. Fortunately, the de-icer on the plane’s wings was working that day. Amazed that it took three days to motor from Lotus Land to Wpg then 3 hours to return by plane to the Vancouver airport (then another 3 hours with lots of space around me to sit and even walk while crossing the waters).
    Your describing “impressionism” sounds interesting. I would love to see an example of the “rules” so I can get a better idea of how to write in this style- as it appeals to me in principle. Wish I could have done some canoeing while there – but am making up with it here by kayaking and otherwise getting on the water. But had a wonderful reunion in Rennie with people and geese, and got my ham sausage in north end Wpg (not plastic wrapped as I had feared), horsed around the floodway and butted heads with a goat. .BTW, how is your writing project going?
    Cheers Al


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