(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort. Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)
You may remember my earlier post on “granularity” as a measure of quality of story. My take was that good work has a level of detail, much as a visual work does. Some works of broad tropes may be big, colorful detail (like an 8 bit game), others may have fine, subtle detail (like a realistic painting). I felt the visual metaphor was useful.
In a discussion with my friend Serdar, he brought up how he had a similar term for good works – pungent. That work that has a power to it that brings a reaction just the way a strong smell does. Pleasant or unpleasant, it has a certain something that draws you in, a depth.
I went with sight as a metaphor. He went with smell a metaphor. I suggested we should find other metaphors using the remaining senses, but by the time the joke was made I took it seriously. Why not experiment with metaphors to understand creativity? My creative friends and I are always trying to find metaphors to understand what makes creative work good.
Writers, artist, cosplayers, etc. want to know what’s good, but creativity is not so easily classified. But exchanging metaphors and comparisons like this? That’s valuable, small signs and milestones to help us get where we’re going.
(OK now I’m using a map metaphor. See what I mean?)
By taking a moment to think about good works as pungent (as opposed to my granular), I gain a new way to appreciate good works and improve my own. Is this story I’m considering more soy sauce or fermented pepper paste? Should a blog post be like a delightful smell that lures you in, or the punch-in-the-nose scent that gets your attention? For that matter, could I be writing something so bland there’s no “scent” at all?
I invite you to exchange metaphors and brainstorm them with your creative friends. See what kind of visceral relations and comparisons you can come up with. Your differences will probably lead you to some informative places . . .
They may even lead to metaphors that are pungent. Or granular. Or use some other sense . . .