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Creating a Sense of Immediacy. Dawn Davishall English II, Regular and Pre-AP Barbers Hill High School Mont Belvieu, TX. Barbers Hill High School Chambers County. 8 schools in the district serving 2,792 students

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creating a sense of immediacy

Creating a Sense of Immediacy

Dawn Davishall

English II, Regular and Pre-AP

Barbers Hill High School

Mont Belvieu, TX

barbers hill high school chambers county
Barbers Hill High School Chambers County
  • 8 schools in the district serving 2,792 students
  • High school enrollment is 769 students supported by 58 full-time employees
  • Demographics:
    • 1 American Indian
    • 24 African Americans
    • 65 Hispanics
    • 679 Caucasians
  • Seven 55-minute periods each day
  • High level of student involvement in all areas of UIL
  • UIL Reading-Writing Coach
from where i stand
From Where I Stand
  • Younger students are encouraged to create. Their natural poetic sense is drawn out. Older students have been expected to be more analytical, and many teachers, including this one, have felt safe there.
  • Writing involves risk.
  • As the focus shifts from process-oriented instruction, “we have begun to struggle with teaching craft as opposed to ready-made forms” (Lane 39).
  • Fostering intrinsic motivation will support an environment of trust and safety in which writing can flourish.

What is it that I sit and read with wonder? What do I love so much that I am moved to read and reread it, to slow down and spend time with it, to show it to my friends, share it with my students, and recommend it to my book club?Language that puts me where the writer is . . .in the moment, in the scene, walking around in it.

what makes writing real
What Makes Writing Real?

If a writer is immersed in the world she’s creating, it is more likely that the reader will be immersed in that world as well. It is the writer’s job to open up, peel away, expose the underbelly. She is encouraged to show, not tell, breathe life into the piece, stand inside it. In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg exhorts one to “stay in direct connection with the senses and what you are writing about. If you are writing from first thoughts—the way your mind first flashes on something before second and third thoughts take over and comment, criticize, and evaluate—you won’t have to worry. First thoughts are the mind reflecting experiences. . . . They can easily teach us how to step out of the way and use words like a mirror to reflect the pictures” (68).

the telling detail
The Telling Detail

In What a Writer Needs, Ralph Fletcher notes that “a writer can bring a character to life with a single, carefully chosen detail. There is an art to this, of course; find the right specific and every aspect of the character comes into instant focus for the reader, right down to the color of his socks, her earrings” (58). He goes on to say that “the bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Don’t write about senility or a man losing the ability to take care of himself. Write about the missed belt loops. Put forth the raw evidence, and trust that the reader will understand exactly what you are getting at” (59).

Showing not telling, yes?

Exposing the underbelly?

so quit telling and show
So quit telling, and show!

With a sense of discovery, let’s read selections from the following works to uncover how these authors create a sense of immediacy:

  • All the King’s Menby Robert Penn Warren
  • “Barbie-Q” from Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Annotate your texts, underlining, making marginal notes, and asking questions. Or simply listen and let yourself be immersed in the language.

the act of framing
The Act of Framing

We don’t frame pictures of folks we don’t like, places that we’d just as soon not have visited, events that held little meaning. No, instead “we frame pictures of loved ones, special events, not-so-special-events, animals, birds, butterflies, places . . . because we want to remember what’s in the picture—because the picture is special. . . . Framing in writing also does that. It invites the reader to look at something closely” (Armstrong 11).

Do you see a frame around Warren’s farmhouse?

or we can think of this technique as an author s using a magic camera
. . . Or we can think of this technique as an author’s using a MAGIC CAMERA

In after The End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision, Barry Lane suggests that “writers have a magic camera that they can point at the world and create snapshots that contain smells and sounds as well as colors and light” (35). Further, he encourages us to “listen to the invisible questions that whisper in readers’ ears, begging them to read on” (20).

Warren has taken a snapshot,

painted a still life, created a scene that we can walk into.

try it
Try it!
  • Think of a person that you know very well. Place that person in the middle of an empty page, and then pretend that you have a magic camera that can freeze any moment in time since you’ve know that person. Jot down at least five or six moments, briefly noting them;
  • Pick one moment and write a snapshot of that moment, creating a picture with words that frames the person so that your reader can see what you see. For example, instead of “Dad took me ice fishing,” we have “Dad knelt beside me by the ice hole, his hand in the icy water reaching for the perch that slipped back in.”
  • After you’ve taken some time to create a snapshot of this person, read over what you’ve written and ask yourself at least two questions that will lead to more detail. Then go back and either insert or add this detail to the snapshot.
  • Next, share your snapshot with a partner or group. The listeners should write down questions that grow out of their natural curiosity about this person. You then add more detail to the original snapshot.

Barry Lane

“We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary. . . . In order to write about it, we have to go to the heart of it and know it, so the ordinary and extraordinary flash before our eyes simultaneously” (Goldberg 75).

alternately try this spin off
Alternately, try this spin-off

Recall the scene in All the King’s Men when the men “saw the house.”

Return to a story you’ve written and find a place in which you could insert a snapshot, framing a scene for your reader. Place a caret (^) in this spot in your story and write your snapshot on a separate piece of paper.

Share your re-vision with fellow writers, asking them to comment on the scene and its clarity. Are there any unanswered questions? Could you layer, even more, your writing?

Discuss the effect of layering. When is enough enough?

Remember that we are ever

reading like writers and writing like readers.

creating a sense of immediacy with the list
Creating a Sense of Immediacy with the List

In Writing with Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres, Tom Romano observes that “a list allows a writer quickly to confront readers with abundant detail, enabling them to see an untainted, holistic picture. In list making, syntax and logical connections of language are not important. Simple, unexplained, occasionally poetic,” the list is often seen as objective, a “still life” to which the reader brings meaning (87). However, he also notes that the list can also be calculated, for a writer can choose to “include some items and exclude others. . . . The list offers the writer opportunity to amass pointed detail in a particular context for devastating effect” (89).

How have both Bradbury and O’Brien created

a sense of devastation with their lists?

try it1
Try it!

For practice, do a quick-write of one of the following:

  • Job opportunities for teens;
  • Entertainment;
  • Your bedroom;
  • Reading materials;
  • Topic of your choice.

Look at your list.

    • Is it accurate?
    • Is it objective?
    • How could you manipulate it to create bias? Look at the following list poem for an example of how a list can make a statement simply by omission.
a list a social critique or both
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Jennifer Pickering, Graduate Student, Utah State University

A List, a Social Critique, or Both?
barbi q
  • Tone
  • Technique

Does Cisneros create a sense of immediacy? How?

lists lists all over the place immediacy detail power
Lists, Lists All Over the Place:Immediacy, Detail, Power

Historical Fiction

Social Commentary


as mark twain exclaims don t say the old lady screamed bring her on and let her scream

As Mark Twain exclaims:“Don’t say the old lady screamed.Bring her on and let her scream.”

What can we do to show not tell? According to Joyce Carroll Armstrong’s Dr. JAC’s Guide to Writing with Depth, there are “five ways to practice showing

Analyze the work of published authors;

Compare telling writing to showing writing;

Recognize and use “show don’t tell” as an elaboration technique;

Identify telling parts in your writing;

Replace the telling parts of your writing with showing parts.”

works cited
Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953.

Carroll, Joyce Armstrong. Dr. JAC’s Guide to Writing with Depth. Spring, TX: Absey & Co., 2002.

Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. New Your: Vintage Contemporaries, 1991.

Fletcher, Ralph. What a Writer Needs. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala, 1986.

Lane, Barry. After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway Books, 1990.

Romano, Tom. Writing with Passion. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1995.

Warren, Robert Penn. All the King’s Men. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1946.