Creative Writing. LITERARY NONFICTION UNIT. VOICE IN WRITING. Introduction: Purpose, Diction, Tone, Syntax. Quick Write: Why do people read/ write? Give as many reasons as possible. Also, generally speaking, why do you read/write?. John Green's Thoughts.
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LITERARY NONFICTION UNIT
Introduction: Purpose, Diction, Tone, Syntax
Why do people read/ write? Give as many reasons as possible. Also, generally speaking, why do you read/write?
Your little sibling has just snuck into your room (AGAIN) to steal something he/she has no business with (i.e. your iPad).
Establish a clear tone for each of the purposes implied below. Write down these messages.
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge Signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
***Here is a small fact***
You are going to die.
I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitelycan be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.
***Reaction to the aforementioned fact***
Does this worry you? I urge you—don’t be afraid. I’m nothing if not fair.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Aunty Polly—Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas, is all told about in that book—which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.”
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie’s baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed ﬁelder’s mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the ﬁngers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he’d have something to read when he was in the ﬁeld and nobody was up at bat. He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him.
JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
I don't think that there is a favorite kid in our family. There are three of us and I am the youngest. My brother is the oldest. He is a very good football player and likes his car. My sister is very pretty and mean to boys and she is in the middle. I get straight A's now like my sister and that is why they leave me alone.
My mom cries a lot during TV programs. My dad works a lot and is an honest man. My Aunt Helen used to say that my dad was going to be too proud to have a midlife crisis. It took me until around now to understand what she meant by that because he just turned forty and nothing has changed.
My Aunt Helen was my favorite person in the whole world. She was my mom's sister. She got straight A's when she was a teenager and she used to give me books to read. My father said that the books were a little too old for me, but I liked them so he just shrugged and let me read.
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
TRUE STORIES, WELL TOLD
In some ways, creative nonﬁction is like jazz—it’s a rich mix of ﬂavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself. Creative nonﬁction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these.
The words “creative” and “nonﬁction” describe the form. The word “creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques ﬁction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonﬁction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonﬁction stories read like ﬁction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.
Let’s look at this example from a memoir and explore how the author is being authentic.
We will try to identify elements of his style, too.
In Houston, where I grew up, the only change in the weather came in late October when cold is sent down from Canada. Weathermen in Dallas would call weathermen in Houston so people knew to bring their plants in and watch after their dogs. The cold came down the interstate, tall and blue, and made reflections in the mirrored windows of large buildings, moving over the Gulf of Mexico as if to prove that sky holds magnitude over water. In Houston, in October, everybody walks around with a certain energy as if they are going to be elected president the next day, as if they are going to get married.
Some vocabulary to know…
I said Sallie yelled
She said muttered Janice
Fred said said Max
Mark commentedasked William
All talking needs to be surrounded by quotation marks (").
"Go to your cupboard - I mean, your bedroom," he wheezed at Harry.
The comma has to go inside the quotation marks.
Instead of using a period at the end of the speech, use a comma if you are going to tell who is talking.
"Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby," said the giant. "Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mum's eyes.”
If you use a question mark, you don't need a comma too.
"What do they think they're doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school?" said Ron finally. "If any dog needs exercise, that one does.”
If you use an exclamation mark, you don't need to change to a comma.
"A stone that makes gold and stops you ever dying!" said Harry. "No wonder Snape's after it! Anyone would want it.”
If you have interrupted speech, to let the reader know who is speaking, a comma is needed before the break, and after the speaker's name.
"Professor," Harry gasped, "your bird - I couldn't do anything - he just caught fire –”
If someone is thinking about something, but doesn't say it out loud, you can either use quotation marks or not. Either way is acceptable.
Of course, he thought bitterly, Uncle Vernon was talking about the stupid dinner party.
Rowling chose not to use quotations around Harry's thoughts. She could just have easily used them like this...
"Of course," he thought bitterly, "Uncle Vernon was talking about the stupid dinner party.”
The “Art” of Good Writing
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
Mr. Bobweave heaved himself out of the chair. As his feet spread under his apple-like frame and his arthritic knees popped and cracked in objection, he pounded the floor with his cane while cursing that dreadful girl who was late again with his coffee.
Mr. Bobweave was a fat, ungrateful old man.
“Good writers …let us see people and ideas in action rather than depend on qualifiers. They give us specifics: strong nouns, precise verbs, actions we can see and hear, reactions we can feel. An apple is big, red, round, crisp, shiny, and juicy. Unless this is a commercial for McIntosh apples, so what? Instead, a writer would try to show something about the apple only if there’s something to be shown—if a quality of the apple reflects some meaning in the sentence or story. For example: I gobbled the green apples I found in the clearing. Now we have specific: hunger, unripe apples, a forest setting: now the apple beings to have a significance we can understand (Atwell, p. 165).
Describe a young boy who is waiting in line to go on a ride at an amusement park for the first time in his life. Do not use the words excited, fun, or line.
Any suggestions for situations?
Don’t ALWAYS show instead of telling. A balance of the two is very important to avoid being too dramatic and wordy. As you read your work, make sure you are choosing the best details to use, and avoid unnecessary words/descriptions.
For the following images, write as many words as possible with POSITIVE, NEGATIVE, and NEUTRAL connotations.
“My father shakes his head. Doctor says he’ll have to take her to examine her and Dad signs a paper. My mother begs for another few minutes with her baby but the doctor says he doesn’t have all day. When Dad reaches for Margaret my mother pulls away against the wall. She has the wild look, her black curly hair is damp on her forehead and there is sweat all over her face, her eyes are wide open and her face is shiny with tears, she keeps shaking her head and moaning, Ah, no, ah, no, till Dad eases the baby from her arms. The doctor wraps Margaret completely in a blanket and my mother cries, Oh, Jesus, you’ll smother her. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help me. The doctor leaves. My mother turns to the wall and doesn’t make a move or sound. The twins are awake, crying with the hunger, but Dad stands in the middle of the room, starting at the ceiling. His face is white and he beats on his thighs with his fists. He comes to the bed, puts his hand on my head. His hand is shaking. Francis, I’m going for cigarettes.”
Write about an interaction from the book you’re reading (or your life), using VERBS to describe…choose the most effective words possible
Follow the directions on the back of your sheet to practice varying your syntax.
Write a page description of your best friend. Consider his/her appearance, personality, hobbies/interests, family life, etc. Try to be as creative as possible and use strong diction/syntax.
Without talking, each group member writes one sentence of a story…pass clockwise until time is up.
Information, Plot, Example
“Oh yes, the reader says: a couple quarreling in a sidewalk restaurant, a nine-year-old boy stealing a Scripto in Woolworth's, a woman crying in the bathtub. We've seen that before. We know where we are. Don't give us details; we don't need them. What we need is surprise, a quick turning of the wrist toward texture, or wisdom, something suddenly broken or quickly repaired. Yes, we know these people. Now just tell us what they do.” (SF. p.229)
According to Steve Almond, "readers are drawn to stories not because of your dazzling prose, but because they wish to immerse themselves in a world of danger. More precisely, in the heart of a particular character on the brink of emotional tumult... readers don't want typical. They turn to fiction for that particular slice of life when typical blows up or breaks down and gives way to the inherent chaos of the human heart.”
This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey
Sudden Fiction Example–
“Just Before Recess” by James Van Pelt
SUDDEN FICTION ASSIGNMENT
For our unit on sudden fiction, you will work to compose a 500-1500 word story that follows the conventions of the genre. Your rough draft is due Wednesday, October 2, and the final draft will be due Friday, October 4.
Your story should include the following components:
Your story will be graded based on the above components. It will be graded with our 10 point system:
How does the appearance of each character indicate personality?
PROTAGONIST—The character the story revolves around
ANTAGONIST—The character or force that opposes the protagonist
Round—stubborn, tender-hearted, playful, loyal, etc.
“Sunday in the Park”
Read the story in groups of 3-4, and discuss how the author uses characterization to intensify the conflict—be prepared to share
USE YOUR CHARACTER IN THE SITUATION
Now, cut unnecessary words from your explanation. Rewrite the prompt with fewer words/ sentences on the back of the card, taking up NO MORE THAN ½ OF THE ORIGINAL SPACE.
Be ready to share one/ turn these in with 10 minutes left in class!