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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English II, Regular and Pre-AP
Barbers Hill High School
Mont Belvieu, TX
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.
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).
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?
With a sense of discovery, let’s read selections from the following works to uncover how these authors create a sense of immediacy:
Annotate your texts, underlining, making marginal notes, and asking questions. Or simply listen and let yourself be immersed in the language.
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?
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.
“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).
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.
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?
For practice, do a quick-write of one of the following:
Look at your list.
Nymens Cosmetic Counter
Attractive women ages 21-39
with prior cosmetic experience.
Must have excellent communication
skills. Single, non-mothers
preferred. Must be able to work
anytime Monday-Sunday including
holidays. No wrinkles, age spots,
facial scars, or bad teeth. Heavy
foundation, panty hose, high heels
and hairspray required. No sick
pay or personal leave time. Over-
weight applicants and applicants with
physical handicaps need not
apply. No job security unless you
maintain sales goals. Aggressive,
self-motivated, persistent women
only. Big-busted blondes encouraged
to apply. Actresses and anorexics
preferred. Please contact Sherrie
Airs at 231-2343 for an appearance
Jennifer Pickering, Graduate Student, Utah State UniversityA List, a Social Critique, or Both?
Does Cisneros create a sense of immediacy? How?
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.”
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.