Stila

Things that go BUMP in the night (a.k.a. Back from the Dead)

I apologize for not updating.
I have NO excuse.

This week's assignment, inspired by THIS article:

1. Describe a "supernatural" experience (real or imagined). It can be a ghost story or just a vivid vignette. Try to put us "in the scene".

2. You (or your character) are going someplace no human has ever gone before. Based on the viewpoint characters knowledge and experience, what's the WORST thing they can imagine finding there.

3. Practice description, what does fear feel like?

4. Write a scene how fear (or lack thereof) determines an outcome.
Stila

The Eyes of a Native

I'm sorry with the delay in updates. I'm preparing for TWO trials (well, SUPPOSED to be preparing) and its been insane.
Excuses, excuses, right?
This assignment is due NEXT Sunday at Midnight.
Instructive Snippet: The Eyes of a NativeCollapse )

PROMPT: Write a letter describing your place to someone who has never been there. "What is Idaho like?" they've asked. They think of mountains and potatoes. Fill in the blanks. Give an insider's view of the place, while keeping in mind they know nothing about it. Take time to linger, elaborate. You will avoid the cliches of the place because you know the particulars. In fact, take some time to explode the cliches. If you're from Georgia, explain how the myths of the South, or Georgia, or your city, just don't apply anymore. Is Nebraska really the breadbasket of Bible-belting boredome, or does some pretty interesting stuff occur there?

PROMPT: Wrhte a letter in which a fictional character describes your neighborhood, town, city, state, or region from the point of view of someone who has just arrived. Though this persona will lack your insider's knowledge, he will be wide-eyed at the world he's discovering. And he will notice different things from what you notice, if you can push yourself deeply enough into the personal. To him, this place is exotic.

PROMPT: Write a scene in which a character returns home after an extended absence. Tour the character through the streets. What has changed and what has stayed the same? If you want, heighten the tension by creating a disparity between the descriptive details as seen by the character and the character's reaction to them. The character, for example, could view sad, shabby storefronts as quaint and cozy of lookalike suburban streets as unique and distinctive.

PROMPT: Create a fictional hometown. Draw a map of it, creating the streets and noting the stores and the homes where people live. If you want, base this fictional place on your own hometown-- or part of town if you live in a city. Write a description of the town. Give it a history. Give it landmarks, noting where certain fictional events too place.

PROMPT: If you had fun with the previous prompt, put some people in that fictional hometown. Write some character sketches of these people. If you catch a spark, begin a story. You may want to collect the stories into a single work. A famous example of this type of book is Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.

PROMPT: Write about a place you haven't seen for many years, preferably, not since you were a child. Then, if possible, visit that place. How close does your description from memory match the reality? You might be surprised how your memory has changed it. Writer Wright Morris wrote of a favorite child place he remembered well, a cool, dark spot under the porch of his boyhood home in Nebraska. He could remember hiding in this spot, and even in his middle age still could see the flat sweep of land fanning out in front of his house. When he returned to the house for a visit, hi family long since moved away, he was shocked to find the space beneath the porch far too small to accomodate even a child. He had made it up. Over time, his imagination had created a place that didn't exist.

Choose one, many or all. Please POST YOUR RESPONSES AS A COMMENT
I note that many of you have choosen one or two of the submissions to comment on. Thank you very much. As writers, we ALL know that feedback is very encouraging.
If someone would like to suggest a book to do prompts out of, let me know.
Stila

The Proper and Special Name of a Thing

NOTE: ASSIGNMENTS NEED TO BE POSTED AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY

From
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<b><u>NOTE: ASSIGNMENTS NEED TO BE POSTED AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY</b></u>

From <i><a href=“ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1582970254/qid=1080149318/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/102-4001947-2040144?v=glance&s=books&n=507846”>Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively</a></i> by Rebecca McClanahan


<lj-cut text="The Proper and Special Name of a Thing">
THE PROPER AND SPECIAL NAME OF A THING

It makes sense that Aristotle begins his discussion of description with the importance of the individual word, “the proper and special name of a thing.” Naming is universally regarded as one of the first acts, if not <i>the</i> first act, of creation. In the Genesis account, God <i>said</i> let there be, and there was. The world sprang to life through the power of the word. Until <i>light</i> was spoken, the earth was formless, a void. But once light was named, and its fraternal twin, darkness, the world of possibility opened up. And the evening and the morning were the first poem.

Naming is so basic to the writing process, so intricately woven into every effective description, that we often overlook its importance. Yet without this first act, without a precise, significant and musical naming, no description can be attempted, no work of literature born.

But creating a literary work is not the same as creating the world, and we must forgive ourselves in advance for not being God. No matter how long we study a lake or our grandfather’s handsaw or our husband’s mustache, and no matter how hard we labor to bring forth a precise, significant and musical description of what we see, we will not be able to recreate reality. Nor to capture it. “I know I cannot paint a flower,” wrote Georgia O’Keeffe, “but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.”

Unlike visual artists, we have no brushes, no claw, no glazes, no many-colored palette to aid us in describing our world. And unlike performing artists, we have no keyboard, no trombone, no toe shoes, no tutu, no midair leap with which to stun our audience and ourselves. What we have is the alphabet, that small but loyal band of vowels and consonants.

Since the word is our only tool, we cannot afford to be imprecise, to say <i>knife</i> when we mean <i>scalpel</i>; fictional blood might be shed. Nor can we afford to squander five letters on saying that it was a green tablecloth when green has nothing to do with the scene that we are trying to portray. <i>Green</i>, although it is an accurate naming, will not serve in this case. And what is <i>ripple</i> doing in the middle of a poem about the weight of loneliness? <i>Ripple</i> weighs close to nothing. It tiptoes across the ear. It is a bad choice.

<i><b>An Accurate Naming</i></b>

The first test of naming is accuracy. Part of a writer’s job is to learn the exact names of things and to have more than a passing acquaintance with them. When we read an essay by Richard Selzer, we trust he is naming the surgical instruments correctly. In the same way, we trust Annie Dillard to know the difference between a beetle and a scorpion, and to describe their exoskeletons precisely. And when poet Mary Oliver writes “long-billed curlew,” we must be assured that she does not mean “great horned owl.” Though the reader may not know the exact name for everything in a piece of writing, he nevertheless expects the writer to know.

Every world has its own vocabulary, even those worlds that might seem simple or mundane, and precise naming takes up deeper into the world being described. You probably cannot write a convincing story about a beauty salon, for instance, without knowing the difference between a tint and a dye, or between a set-and-style and a permanent wave. It might also help to know how long each procedure takes, and how much it costs. If you’re writing a story from the point of view of a high school biology teacher, you may need to know not only what your students are wearing but also how to properly prepare a slide and dissect a fetal pig, and how to fill out a midterm grade report.

Finding out the names of things, their histories and how they work often requires outside research. This applies to the writing of fiction and poetry as well as to nonfiction writing. In the midst of revising a short story about a girl who helps deliver a calf, I realized I knew almost nothing about the subject. I spent the next two days in the library, and the following day at a local farm interviewing a farmer. The best way to learn would have been to deliver a calf with my own hands, but it was winter and I had a deadline.

Before I sent the final version to my editor, I asked the farmer to read the description of the delivery. Other than an error in my use of the term <i>freemartin</i>, which I set about to correct, my description met the farmer’s standards. “Yes ma’am,” he said, “that’s just how it is, you got it right. That’s exactly how a calf is born, cord and all.” (a freemartin, for those of you who are wondering, is the female twin of a bull calf. I’ve been waiting three sentences to tell you. Aristotle was right. What a joy to find “the proper and special name of a thing.”)

<b><i>A Significant Naming</i></b>
Precision extends beyond mere accuracy. Although there might be several correct names for something, according to Aristotle “one word may come closer than another to the thing described…set it more distinctly before our eyes.” For example, if you were describing a girl’s white face, <i>milke, bloodless,</i> and <i>alabaster</i> would all pass the correctness test; all refer to whiteness. Yet each word brings forth a different visual image. While milky skin calls out to be touched, <i>bloodless</i> connotes a sickly, perhaps deathly countenance. And <i>alabaster</i>, though it might look good on a statue, suggests an unearthly qualify. Although all three girls have white skin- you named the color accurately- they are three different girls. The one with the alabaster skin belongs on a pedestal; the one with bloodless skin, in an ambulance. And the girl with skin of milky white? Well yes, go ahead. Reach out and touch her.

Word choice, then, refers not only to correctness but to precision of image. We must go beyond selecting the correct name for something. We must also select the word that will call forth the significant image, attitude and emotion our story requires.

<b><i>A Musical Naming</i></b>

Finally, our naming must be musically precise. That is, the sounds of our words must reinforce their imagistic and emotional content. To return to an earlier example, <i>ripple</i> is probably not the best word to use in a poem describing the weight of loneliness. Not only does the word <i> mean</i> something slight, almost insignificant; it <i>sounds</i> slight. The short <i>i</i> is a bantam-weight vowel, the lightest, most childlike sound in our language. Furthermore, the word’s consonants slide easily into one another like liquid evaporating into mist. As softly as it began, the word ends. Not with a band, but a whimper.

A more weighty choice would have been a word like <i>stone</i> or <i>root</i> or <i>nobody</i>. Is there a vowel more heavy or sad than the long <i>o</i>? It hollows out the mouth, intones the deepest sorrow. In “the Philosophy of Composition,” Poe discusses his choice of <i>nevermore</i> as the refrain in “The Raven.” He wanted a word that was “sonorous and susceptible of protected emphasis,” which led him inevitably to the long <i>o</i>, “the most sonorous vowel.”

It isn’t merely the long vowel that makes <i>stone</i> and <i>root</i> weigh more than <i>ripple</i>. Because they are one-syllable words, their individual heft is felt as we place them on the page or as we read them. And their ending sounds make a strong final impression. The <i>t</i> or <i>root</i> supplies an abrupt ending, closing down completely, which the <i>n</i> of <i>stone</i> remains before our eyes and deep in our throats, providing weight and texture to reinforce the word’s heaviness. Later we’ll discuss in more detail how the sounds and rhythms of individual words, phrases and sentences affect our descriptions. For now, its enough to remember that effective description requires not only an accurate and appropriate naming, but a musical naming as well.

<b><i>The Backdoor Technique</i></b>

Sometimes the best way to name an object, person, or scene is by way of what it is <i>not</i>. After reading <a href=“http://www.albionmich.com/inspiration/mymistresseyes.html”>“Sonnet 130,”</a> we don’t know what the eyes of Shakespeare’s mistress look like, only that they “are nothing like the sun.” Likewise, in her cheeks, no roses; and in her voice, no music. From the list of what she is not, the reader fashions his own mental picture.

This sonnet has been categorized by some scholars as anti-Petrarchan, meaning that it purposely eschews the attributes an Elizabethan sonneteer might commonly assign to his beloved. But Shakespeare’s poem goes beyond rebellion against established literary conventions. His technique of negation, describing his mistress in terms of what she is not, also allows him to avoid clichés (rosy cheeks, musical voice) while leaving room for the reader to supply his own image of the beloved.

The technique of description-by-negation works well when the object being described is viewed as ideal- a mistress, a beautiful scene, a lofty idea. For these subjects, a direct approach would likely yield sentimentality or cliché. Arguably the most famous piece of writing employing the “back-door technique is found in the New Testament, in the thirteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, often referred to as “the love chapter.” Is there any subject that invites more sentimentality or cliché? Yet, in his description of love (or “charity”) the author is able to avoid these traps, in part by listing the qualities that love does <i>not</i> contain:

<font size="-2">…charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up…
doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity…</font>

Describing by negation also opens up physical spaces otherwise closed to characters, narrators and readers. In Normal MacLean’s <i>Young Men and Fire</i>, he details a scene that would be impossible for someone to witness and still live to tell about. In the following passage, he describes the last few minutes of several firefighter’s lives:

<font size="-2">It is really not possible to see the center of a blowup because the
smoke only occasionally lifts, and when it does all that can be seen
are pieces, pieces of death flying around looking for you—burning
cones, branches circling on wings, a log in flight without a propeller…</font>

The back-door technique provides entry not only into physical landscapes but psychic landscapes as well. Describing something in terms of what you don’t see, hear or know reinforces a feeling of emotional distance. In “The Secret Sharer” Joseph Conrad reveals, by way of negation, the aloneness the young captain experiences before the ship embarks:

<font size="-2">At that moment I was alone on her decks. There was not a sound
in her—and nothing around us moved, nothing lived, not a canoe
on the water, not a bird in the air, not a cloud in the sky.</font>

You can also employ the back-door technique to create ironic or comic touches:

<font size="-2">The new secretary squeaked by his desk in crepe-soles oxfords.
Marilyn Monroe, she wasn’t.</font><font size="-2"></font>

Or to introduce a fantastic or surreal setting:

<font size="-2">What she saw in her dream bore no resemblance to her earthly,
Daylit home. Gone was the sturdy pin oak, the brick columns,
The white fence stretching to the end of the driveway…</font>
The back-door technique can also build suspense, demonstrating the confusion or disorientation of the viewer:

Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

When the back-door technique is sustained, as in Ivan Turgenev’s “The Tryst,” it also builds rhetorical suspense. Here’s Turgenev’s description-by-negotiation of a birch grove in early autumn when the leaves first begin to fall:

<font size="-2">It was not the cheerful, laughing rustle of springtime, not the soft
whispering, not the long conversation of summer, not the cold and
timid stammering of late autumn, but a barely audible, dreamy chatter.</font>

The repetition of “it was not” slows down the revelation—a kind of verbal teasing—and the reader rushes forward, eager to reach the descriptive climax. Okay, we gasp. If it’s not this, and it’s not this, and it’s not this, then what is it? When we finally reach the phrase that actually describes the early autumn sounds, we’re not disappointed, although the description consists of only five words: “a barely audible, dreamy chatter.” By saving the actual description until the end of the passage, Turgenev holds our suspense.

*** EXCERCISES ***
Pick at least TWO of the following and use them to “warm up” your brain as you prepare for the writing assignment.

1. PROMPT: Make a list of terms associated with your vocation or avocation, or with a line of work you’re interested in, perhaps a job you main character holds. In <i>On Fire</i>, Larry Brown lists some of the equipment of his fireman’s world:

<font size="-2">…ladders, axes, forcible entry tools, rappelling gear, ropes,
safety belts, breathing apparatus, nozzles, generators, a Hurst
Tool (Jaws of Life), flashlights, pike poles, entry saws, boltcutters,
fire extinguishers…</font> <font size="-2"></font>

After you’ve made your list, choose several terms from the list and expand them into descriptive phrases. Combine these phrases to make a complete sensory description. You might try the “I love” technique that Brown employs:

<font size="-2">I love my old torn-up boots, the toes skinned and burned, my
wrinkled gloves, sootstreaked and charred, my dirty coat and
frayed turnout pants.

I love to go down on the floor and see the smoke over me, worm
my way forward to the fire, the hose hard as a brick, the scuffed
rubber on the end of the fog nozzle. I love the two-and-a-half-inch
hoses and the big chrome nozzles that no man can hold, the red
axes and the pry bars and the pike poles that we tear down
ceilings with…</font>

2. PROMPT: Write a description for an article of clothing that will appear in a catalogue unaccompanied by an illustration. Your job is not only to describe the item accurately, but to entice a customer to buy it. Begin with the basics: name the article precisely and list available colors (be inventive) and fabrics. Then describe, in detail, each distinguishing feature. Finally, set the fantasy scene for the customer. Where might he wear the item? How will this article of clothing change his image, his life?

3. PROMPT: Starting with the same article of clothing (see exercise 2), write another description. This time, imagine you own the item. It is, in fact, your favorite piece of clothing. Your sister (or brother or best friend) has written to you, asking to borrow the item to wear for an upcoming event. She’s never seen the item, but she’s heard through the grapevine it’s quite a find. You don’t want to loan it to her, but you don’t want to tell her that. Write the description you’d include in your response. Remember, you’re trying to convince her it’s <i>not</i> such a find after all.

4. PROMPT: Write descriptions for five different entrees to be served at an upscale restaurant. These are descriptions the waiters will recite, word for word, to diners. Be sure to include not only the name of the dish and its ingredients but also details about how it will be prepared and served.

5. PROMPT: Choose a piece of furniture in your home that holds at least four objects. I’d probably choose my writing desk which is crowded with coffee cups, pens, books, rubber bands, a sleeping cat, unsent letters, photographs and mementos. You might choose your dresser or the dining room table. Before you begin to describe the objects, select a method for ordering your description. You might decided, for instance, on spatial ordering, working from right to left or from front to back. You could order the objects in terms of size, shape, texture or any other sensory quality. Or you might describe the objects in order of their significance—emotionally, practically, or aesthetically.

6. PROMPT: Using this chapter’s suggestions for using the “back-door technique,” describe an object or place in terms of what it is <i>not</i>.


***ASSIGNMENT***
Adapted from <a href=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0874778255/qid=1080508878/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-6356247-1036649?v=glance&s=books&n=507846> Room to Write</a> by Bonni Goldberg, page 109.

PROMPT: Write what you <strike>don’t</strike> know:
Today, write about something you <I>haven’t</I> done: piloting an airplane, skinning an animal, teaching English as a second language, water-skiing. It could be something you’ve read about, observed, or simply dreamed of doing. Keeping what we learned about today in mind, do some basic research on the specific language associated with what you are discussing, but feel free to make up words that you can’t find. Use concrete, specific details. Try to make the scene believable.

PROMPT: Write what you <I>do </I> know:
What is something unique that you have had an opportunity to do? (ex: climb a mountain, perform in a circus, race stock cars, etc.). Write a scene (it can be fictionalized) employing the “specific language” and unique, concrete details associated with that activity.

PROMPT: Write what you <I>do</I>. What is your job or your “dream job”? Following the “I love…” example cited about (as loosely as you feel like it), write about things that you love about your job, being as specific as possible.

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The assignment is due Thursday at 12 Noon, EST. I will (try to) post the new assignment Thursday morning.

Please answer the following questions as well, if you get a chance:

1. Are the snippets from the book helpful, or would you rather have straight prompts?
2. Would you like to have a “featured member” each week to C&C? I think that commenting on everyone’s every week would be too much, but it could be helpful.
3. Is there enough time for the assignments?
4. Would you prefer to have longer assignments and more time to do them?
5. Are you interested in gearing this group toward developing a longer piece of fiction (for example, following “The Marshall Plan” or “Get that Novel Written”, etc., or do you prefer to keep things as they are- working on the building blocks of writing on a micro level?

THE ASSIGMENTS SHOULD BE POSTED AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY!!!!

Regret is...

I'm not late; this isn't due for almost two hours. *grins*

PROMPT: Create a metaphor for regret, a physical object that embodies the feeling or allows you to explore the feeling in a fresh way. Begin with a metaphorical statement: “Regret is...” and move from there.

Reality Denied, 120 wordsCollapse )
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Stila

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NOTE: ASSIGNMENTS NEED TO BE POSTED AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY

From
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<b><u>NOTE: ASSIGNMENTS NEED TO BE POSTED AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY</b></u>

From <i><a href=“ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1582970254/qid=1080149318/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/102-4001947-2040144?v=glance&s=books&n=507846”>Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively</a></i> by Rebecca McClanahan, Pages 55-57
<lj-cut text="THE IMPORTANCE OF CONCRETE DETAIL">
“<b> THE IMPORTANCE OF CONCRETE DETAIL</b>

A friend who is fond of slogans, self-help tapes and refrigerator magnets once gave me a bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I thanked her politely, took the bumper sticker home, excised the “Don’t” with a felt-tipped marker, and placed the sticker over my writing desk. A writer’s job, after all, is to sweat the small stuff. Without the small stuff, no large stuff can follow. “No ideas but in things,” wrote William Carlos Williams, the father of imagist poets.

Ideas exist, of course, floating noiselessly above our heads, infused with ether. But how does one paint an idea? Or one’s idea of an idea? It <i>is</i> possible, however, to paint a cow’s skill or a white flower- that is, a representation of a cow’s skill or a white flower- and allow the idea to rise from the embodied object. When she was asked about how she came to paint the famous <i>Cow Skill: Red, White and Blue</i>, O’Keeffe responded that she painted “my cow’s head because I liked it.”

I love the way O’Keeffe called her painting “my cow’s head,” taking personal possession of the thing itself and revealing her attachment to it. Why is it that so often in our writing, we fail to describe the <i>things</i> of the story, the poem, the essay? Maybe we don’t believe anyone would be interested in the ordinary objects of our world. Or perhaps we feel the task is simply beneath us. After all, we’re trying to make Art, right? We’re trying to move our reader to a new place, reveal Truth with a capital “T”. Once, in a college writing class, I questioned a student about why he had typed his poem in all caps. I was stalling for time, trying to find something positive to say about the poem, which was filled with phrases like “the anxiety of my being” and “the chaos of undefined modernity.” He looked up, his mouth spreading into a smuch smile: “I didn’t want anyone to miss the obscurity.”

I swear, that’s what he said. And I had to hand it to him; he’d certainly accomplished his purpose. No reader could possibly miss the obscurity.

I nodded mutely and moved on to the next writer. Eight of the twelve lines of her poem were devoted to describing a button. It was a small black plastic button, smooth as a wet stone, slippery to the touch, nothing special, the kind of button you can buy in any fabric store (four buttons to a car, two dollars and forty-nine cents). Painstakingly, the writer had described its shine, its four tiny holds, the way the needled made a “scratching” sound as she tried to stitch the button onto a blue seersucker jacked. The man wearing the jacket was the narrator’s dead father, propped up in a casket a few hours before the viewing. The daughter, who had noticed that a button was missing, had hurried to the store for a replacement.

That’s all she wrote; those were the twelve lines. But beneath the workmanlike description of a button, the poem was living and breathing on its own. The button was a button, yes. But it was also the embodiment of a daughter’s grief, her attempt to fill the missing space. Sewing on the button was the last chore she would ever perform for her father.

I’ve mentioned that the poet had taken pains to describe the button. The work of an accurate description can be painstaking and difficult, and it often goes unpraised, like most menial labor. In some ways, a writer <i>is</i> a menial laborer, laying stone by stone what John Gardner called the “proofs” of the story, those closely observed details that convince the reader the events really happened or might have happened. Much of our writing energy is expended not in illuminating the deep mysteries of theme and symbol but in simply performing the physical tasks of the story, such as moving a character from the bed to the refrigerator. Or describing a small black button.

Why spend eight lines of a twelve-line poem to describe a button? After all, such description requires valuable time and energy, not only for the writer but for the reader as well. Why not just mention the button, then move on to a memory of the narrator and her father, or to a lyrical riff on the joys of the father-daughter bond? Why is it so important to sweat the small stuff?

Keeping alive the fictional dream is the most obvious reason to sweat the small stuff. But it is not the only one. Equally important is the power of concrete detail to engage not only the mind of a reader but his emotions as well. A poet can drone on and on about how her father’s death has affected her. She can use abstractions like <i>grief</i> and <i>pain</i> and <i>emptiness</i> until the proverbial cows come home, without moving the reader.

If it is difficult to write about grief or pain or emptiness without first embodying these concepts, it is equally difficult to write abstractly about a father’s death. The subject is too large; the writer cannot compete with it. But let that same poet thread a needle, take a small black button in her hand, stitch it to a dead man’s jacket, and the reader enters the poem with her. Word by carefully crafted word, the world of grief shrinks until it can fit through the eye of a needle. Finally, it is the small things that break our hearts.

The necessity of concrete imagery applies to prose as well as to poetry. “The fiction writer,” said Flannery O’Connor, “has to realize that he can’t create compassion with compassion, or emotion with emotion, or thought with thought. He has to provide all these things with a body; he has to create a world with weight and extension.” Before an idea, emotion or abstraction can take on imaginative weight and substance, it must be embodied in sensory, concrete detail.


PRACTICE WHAT WE’VE LEARNED:

Keeping today’s “lesson” in mind, try one (or all) of the following

PROMPT: Following Flannery O’Connor’s advice about writers providing a concrete body for emotions, scan a recent piece of your writing [NOTE: the prompt we did on grief is probably a great place to start, although I note that most of you seem to have already taken the advice in today’s section and made it a part of your writing. There were some really LOVELY images.] for an abstract term for an emotion (words like <i>love, grief, anxiety, </i> and <i>guilt</i>). Rewrite a section that contains an abstraction, substituting concrete images that suggest the feeling. If you find it hard to remove the abstraction completely, try anchoring it with a concrete detail. For instance, instead of writing, “I feel a heavy guilt every time I go home,” you could write, “Guilt comes in the door with me, dragging its heavy suitcase.””

PROMPT: Review the last entry’s prompts about “Regret”. Try to do one of the exercises WITHOUT using the word “Regret”.

PROMPT: Think of a major event in your life: marriage, death, graduation, birth of child, new house, first day away from school, etc. What is the smallest detail of that day that you remember? Think about <i>why</i> your mind filed that particular detail away. Write about the event, focusing on that detail.


PROMPT: Describe the nature and feeling of love to someone who has never had the experience.

PROMPT: Write a poem using a “concrete detail” (specific action, specific object, etc.) as a metaphor or to evoke an abstract feeling.

PROMPT: Write a scene in which a character receives very disappointing news. Rather than show the disappointment, she does something else, perhaps focuses on efinishing an old chair or a similar activity. Suggest her emotional state through her actions.

PROMPT: Write about an illuminating moment in your life, a time when you learned an important lesson or gained an important insight. Describe the scene exactly as it happened, but don’t mention the lesson or insight.

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DUE DATE: Please turn in your assignment <b>AS A COMMENT TO THIS ENTRY </b>by 11:59 PM, EST on Sunday. I will post the new assignment Sunday afternoon.

KEEP IN MIND:

1 PLEASE make your assignment a comment. I’ve gotten several complaints about friends page spam. We don’t want to lose any lovely writers from our group!

2. Make it a practice to read what others have written. I’m REALLY impressed with what people are doing, and it gives me a lot of insight/perspective to see how other people approach the same topic. Comments are encouraged, but NOT required. If you do choose to comment, please make it your rule of thumb to say one encouraging thing before you set off on what needs improvement (and if you set off telling others what needs to be improved, keep the adage about “glass houses” firmly in mind). We are ALL on the same level here. That level is “Writers who are going to be better than we are now!”.

3. Please feel free to let other writers know about our group.

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