Weekend Reads: WPLongform Picks

For people who love language and the strange, wonderful things it can do, few things are more pleasurable than diving into a well-crafted piece of writing. Since the introduction of the WPLongform tag a couple of months ago, the task of finding such writing has become that much easier.

Follow the WPLongform tag on the Reader, and you’ll see that dozens of bloggers have made it a home for their in-depth, rich narratives. This week’s WPLongform Picks are no exception: radically different in topic, style, and format, they all present us with a remarkably sustained voice, a powerful use of narrative, and an unwavering attention to structure. They blew us away.

Monitoring

If you ever need proof that good writing can transform the most unexpected material into compelling storytelling, look no further than this post on Rose Glace’s Blog. We barely ever leave the confines of a school’s outdated, malfunction-prone computer room in this roughly 1700-words-long piece. We hear a lot about (and nothing else but) servers, pagers, and anonymous tech support people who don’t quite do their jobs properly. And all the while, we can’t stop reading.

There were holes in the coverage, of course. Fortunately, we had thousands of people monitoring things for us so if something important stopped working the way it was ‘supposed’ to, the phone would ring. Usually within seconds, although in one notable exception (a problem resulted in a ‘pay’ service becoming ‘free’) it took months. Funny thing, that.

The hardest topic to write about might very well be boredom. We leave Monitoring knowing something new about it, without actually experiencing it. That’s quite a feat.

Loneliness and Social Anxiety

It takes a great deal of courage to write openly about the least favorite aspects of one’s life. It takes immense talent to do so in a way that’s so engaging. In brutally crisp language, the writer at Red Tulips & Yellow Wallpaper takes us into the core of a lonely person’s experience. She does so with as much poise as if she were showing us around her music collection.

It occurred to me the other day that it’s been about 7 years since I’ve had someone in my life that I could hang out with, and 9 years since I’ve had a close friend. How does time get away from you like that? I can’t quite explain it, except that in my depression I’ve learned to ignore the big picture in order to survive day to day life. I tell myself Tuesday was ok because my manager talked to me for a few minutes about Star Wars, and I got to read a book I like on my lunch break, and then someone favorited one of my tweets that night.

You know your writing resonates when dozens of readers feel compelled to comment on your post and say, ‘I know how this feels.’ We can’t wait for the follow-up post.

La Ruta Maya

Longform writing gives us a truly wide screen on which to project our stories. In her post about a road trip in the Yucatàn, the blogger writing at Life Along the River populates hers with a careful mosaic of visual details and psychological observations. We get a real sense of place — the jungle, the beach, the dirt roads — and, more important, of the people involved.

I wonder whose idea it was to get off the bus when we did, I think about the cold soda I should be drinking now, I think about the fact that I may never get to drink another icy cold soda because we’re going to get murdered, right here, right now, in the jungle with this weird guy that won’t talk. I want to blame someone.

Then I notice his shoulders.

At the heart of the piece is a mysterious, ominous man who gives the narrator a ride in his green Volkswagen beetle. Through the generous arc of the story, we learn something about him, and, through him, about the narrator — and about ourselves.

All three WPLongform Picks were posted within a single week in June. Dozens of other great posts are published daily, so be sure to explore the tag, and don’t forget to use it yourself for your longer (say, about a 1000 words or more?) pieces. You’ll find a community of readers eager to sink their teeth into some meaty prose.

For more on WPLongform:


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Ben Huberman

12 Comments

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  1. roseglace

    good writing? compelling? it’s drivel. :-)

    • Ben Huberman

      Well, I suppose it’s true that authors are often their own harshest critics! I think, though, that most readers would disagree :)

  2. The Prosperous Rhinoceros

    Good analysis on how bloggers create and draft compelling content… =)

  3. jonathandowning

    Good point-I love your posts

  4. HipsterApproved.net

    I’ll have to check this out…
    Thanks

  5. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I’ll be visiting Red Tulips for sure. Like the way you said she tells alike she’s taking us through her music collection. Sounds an excellent blog to me, I like voices of substance coming from a human place – so thanks for the lead.

  6. garnerterrance4

    you guys are working very hard so thankyou alot

  7. Meka

    Wow I really do love your posts, and I kinda dig roseglace’s drivel too! Thanks for sharing

  8. aakilade

    I like writers who grip, especially when unexpected humour peeks out at odd corners. Dry as summer’s dust, some may say of a particular author, but his risible scenes pack a wicked wallop.

  9. TheGBTimes

    Excellent analysis. Nice article. :)

  10. 96eagle

    Well written,,,,thank you for sharing

  11. sanchitahobby

    Excellent. I completely agree that it’s very difficult to write about the negative things of life in the form of a story.

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