February 8, 2008 Archives
For homework, blog your agenda item as you would for any reading assignment. Come to class prepared to workshop some scenarios for your short story that is due Monday. You are welcome to use your blog to start developing your ideas for your story.
Rather than just picking one quote at random, I'd like you to choose a set of related terms (for instance, epigram and aphorism; or the difference between a novel and a short story) and briefly demonstrate your ability to apply those concepts to one of the readings we have looked at so far this term.
I'm not asking you to do every exercise in the book, but if one of the exercises give you a good idea for a blog entry, you're welcome to use it.
When we write in order to vent, or work something out in our heads, we are writing for ourselves. All we have to do is mention someone's name, and all the emotions associated with that name come flooding into our consciousness.
There is great value in expressing your feelings through writing; however, the writing strategies that lead to good "venting" (you write whenever the mood strikes you, you churn out words and paragraphs, and then once the emotion passes, you stop) rarely lead to good fiction (or poetry, or personal essays).
It's hard to maintain a clear idea of how your words are going to affect your reader, when you are still caught up in the emotions of the moment you are trying to capture. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't write about what makes you passionate, but rather that the real power of emotive writing is not that it accurately expresses the author's feelings, but that it generates feelings in the reader. (Whether those words "capture" your own feelings is largely irrelevant.)
William Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility." That definition usefully describes the delicate process of choosing specific incidents to "show" a truth that is important to our developing understanding of the story, without using announcements and labels to "tell" the reader the significance of those incidents.
When we encounter a work of fiction in which the protagonist seems to be pouring out his or her emotions in a great, unrehearsed gush, we see only the end result of hours (or months) of planning, and multiple (or scores) of revisions.
The author has worked hard to make it look like the writing is unplanned.The writer will carefully conceal important details ("She loves him but can't admit it" or "The suspect the detective is pursuing is really the detective's own brother") that become clear only as the story progresses (maybe, for a short story, only becoming clear in the final line).
There are, of course, forms of fiction that don't involve great gushes of emotions. For example, detective stories emphasize puzzles and character study, while adventure stories emphasize discovery and setting.