Reasons For Writing. A slide-show to help the student writer focus on style and the basis of substance Click here to go to Table of Contents. Table of Contents. Narrative Writing Descriptive Writing Persuasive Writing Expository Writing. Descriptive Introduction.
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A slide-show to help the student writer focus on style and the basis of substance
Click here to go to Table of Contents
Descriptive writing takes the reader on a voyeuristic experience. You, the author, take over the reader’s eyes, ears, taste buds, touch and smell. How will the strawberry just bitten fill the mouth with juice? What is the sound of a chainsaw taking down an old-growth forest? How did Paul Gross’ interpretation of Hamlet fill you up or leave you somewhat hollow? And which are truly children’s questions, to be answered not with logic but with sense?
Careful use of precise terms, judicious interpretations and creative adjective choices will describe well. Vary sentence style and length. Fragments may be useful.
This form of writing attempts to get the reader to agree with what the writer is saying as a point of view. Each step needs to be laid out in terms that are patently, eminently reasonable. Writing to persuade requires the careful breakdown of an idea into small components so each can be presented, described and woven deftly together into one whole cloth.
To write this way, plan carefully so that you deal with each small step, clearly laying each out and providing reinforcement. Build your case for agreement like a solid brick wall, with clear transitions. The conclusion will hardly need to be stated at the end (but do so anyway).
Tell a story, share an experience:
“I had a farm in Africa, in the Ngong hills” is the beginning of Karen Blixen’s “Out Of Africa”. It is the beginning of the story of part of her life.
This great story begins: “In a certain village in La Mancha, which I do not wish to name, there lived not long ago a gentlemen – one of those who have always a lance in the rack, an ancient shield, a lean hack and a greyhound for coursing.” The rest of the story unfolds over 74 chapters, ending with the death of the Don.
This great yarn begins with an assertion so banal that the reader is cajoled into understanding that what follows will disprove the opening. The book begins: “Mr. And Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
Describe an experience, emotion, reaction, situation:
What is the feel of strawberry pulp in the mouth? How does religious ecstasy make you cry from deep inside? When you live deliberately, what are some of the reflections which arise?
Close to the end of Ch. 14, Pirsig writes: “We’re living in topsy-turvy times, and I think that what causes the topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy of old forms of thought to deal with new experiences. I’ve heard it said that the only real learning results from hang-ups, where instead of expanding the branches of what you already know, you have to stop and drift laterally for a while until you come across something that allows you to expand the roots of what you already know.”
Thoreau writes in a chapter on ‘House Warming’: “Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I loved to have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to remind me of my pleasing work. I had an old axe which nobody claimed, with which by spells in winter days, on the sunny side of the house, I played about the stumps which I had got out of my bean-field.”
Convince the reader to agree with an idea, point of view or system of belief. This may require the system of belief to be laid out in toto, or the reader may merely need to be reminded of certain conditions or constructions to configure a whole cloth in the mind.
Marx and Engels had to tell their readers what the social situation was in Europe, and why, in their analysis. Only then did the rallying cry to armed insurrection and bloody revolution make any sense. The text begins: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Dr. King’s speeches, sermons and letters scarcely need introduction, so recent is their position in history. To frame his ideals and ideas, start with the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, which begins thus: “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Fivescore years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared by the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination, …”
Detailed ‘how to’ instructions to perform a function, reach a goal, realize a series of steps. Recipes, books of instructions and the details of the Stations of the Cross are all expository writing, as are the method of pilgrimage and carving an unfamiliar haunch.
Sun Tzu’s “The Art Of War” is generally expository writing, detailing how to win battles you never fight.
Sun Tzu said: “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.”
(Samuel B. Grifith translation, Oxford University Press, 1963)
The text continues for the traditional chapters.
This little tome by Niccolo Machiavelli details how power is to be used successfully to maintain relationships within a state. It begins: “All states and governments that have had, and have at present, dominion over men, have been and are either Republics or Principalities.”
(Detmold translation, Washington Square Books, 1969.)