Week 2: Skills

Skills used this week

This week I worked on the skills of showing and not telling we looked through different pieces of writing and then experimented with this method. We were given a sentence and then told to expand on this. This include Barry was clever, she answered the phone and gave her name and a man walks into a bar. Two of these pieces are included below.

We then also worked on the method of writing to a theme. We looked at two extracts regarding showing fear, again linking in with showing not telling. We then had to write a piece that showed fear of something without simply stating it. My piece was written regarding blood and used a mixture of personal experience and metaphor to influence the style of writing. In the past I have suffered from panic attacks relating to blood, this is something I used to fuel the writing and create a sense of panic – trying to emulate my thought process when I panic.

We also looked at Hemmingway’s 6 word memoir in terms of being able to tell a story with only 6 words. This was something I felt really helped to improve my skills in terms of wording. Only having 6 words to chose to create the basis of a story and show some kind of narrative (or a point of view) is something that really helped me to think through my word choice and think about my writing from a different perspective. Each word had a purpose, this can also be very usefully applied to the journalism industry in terms of keeping wording short and to the point with no unnecessary information included. I feel this benefitted me greatly as keeping to word count is something I wish to improve on during the course of this year.

An over arching theme of this week was also specificity, this links in with the 6 word memoirs also. We had to make sure we included specifics in a piece of writing to really build a picture and a narrative around something. For this we focused on ‘A man walks into a bar’. We had to then take this and build upon it, how they walked for example. Where was the bar, why were they there etc. Building up a narrative is a key feature of writing and specific word choice is imperative. In order to write something with a specific tone, for an intended audience and with a certain theme it is crucial to make sure specific words and terms are used over others. For example if the man walks into a bar this doesn’t say much and is really just a bland statement. However, if the man were to stride across the room, the man now has a purpose and you can begin to build up more of a picture of the situation, the character and the the voice of the writer.

Professional example

An extract from ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ By John Green

The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath. Colin had always preferred baths; one of his general policies in life was never to do anything standing up that could just as easily be done lying down. He climbed into the tub as soon as the water got hot, and he sat and watched with a curiously blank look on his face as the water overtook him. The water inched up his legs, which were crossed and folded into the tub. He did recognize, albeit faintly, that he was too long, and too big, for this bathtub—he looked like a mostly grown person playing at being a kid.

As the water began to splash over his skinny but unmuscled stomach, he thought of Archimedes. When Colin was about four, he read a book about Archimedes, the Greek philosopher who’d discovered that volume could be mea sured by water displacement when he sat down in the bathtub. Upon making this discovery, Archimedes supposedly shouted ‘Eureka!’ and then ran naked through the streets. The book said that many important discoveries contained a ‘Eureka moment.’ And even then, Colin very much wanted to have some important discoveries, so he asked his mom about it when she got home that evening.

‘Mommy, am I ever going to have a Eureka moment?’

‘Oh, sweetie,’ she said, taking his hand. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘I wanna have a Eureka moment,’ he said, the way another kid might have expressed longing for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

She pressed the back of her hand to his cheek and smiled, her face so close to his that he could smell coffee and makeup. ‘Of course, Colin baby. Of course you will.’

But mothers lie. It’s in the job description.

An extract from “Gunmen’s Wild Political War in Chicago”  –

CHICAGO- Anthony D’Andrea, pale and spectacled, defeated candidate for alderman in the 19th Ward, Chicago, stepped out of the closed car in front of his residence and, holding an automatic pistol in his hand, backed gingerly up the steps.

Reaching back with his left hand to press the door bell, he was blinded by two red jets of flame from the window of the next apartment, heard a terrific roar and felt himself clouted sickeningly in the body with the shock of slugs from the sawed-off shotgun.

It was the end of the trail that had started with a white-faced boy studying for the priesthod in a little Sicilian town. It was the end of a trail that had wound from the sunlit hills of Sicily across the sea and into the homes of Chicago’s nouveau riche. A trail that led through the penitentiary and out into the deadliest political fight Chicago has ever known.

Own examples of skills  being used

Researched story narrative

It’s ironic, a refugee standing outside a house; in the sense that an outsider is outside. With only a sewing kit gripped tightly in one hand he knocks with the other.

Three clear knocks. Knock, knock, and knock. There was a brief sound of movement and hurried panic. Pulled ajar there is the gaunt face of someone who has had just about enough stress for one day. The man turned to his companion, his son doing the same for guidance. “This here is Ibrahim. He would like to help with your current dilemma.” Ibrahim smiled and emanated that kind of warmth you feel when you see a particularly cute looking dog. He shook his sewing kit and pointed inside the house then back again to the sewing kit.

The three men were escorted to the room where hell had been let loose. A group of women were surrounding the woman in the white dress like a swirling whirlpool of fuss.

“Excuse me” Ibrahim’s companion began “This is Ibrahim and his son. I think they can be of some help.” The man and his son walked over to the woman who was centred fanning her face so as the tears welling in her eyes would not destroy her makeup.

Making way for him the women parted to allow Ibrahim to get to the woman. Again he smiled. The woman turned around and the tear in the dress for the first time was obvious. One woman looked away almost as if it were too much to bear.

Ibrahim the man who had been welcomed into this home as much as he had the country, looked at the zip. He chuckled to himself.

He worked quickly and efficiently. One stitch. Two stiches. His son holding his sewing kit. Three stitches. One minute passed. Two minutes passed. A woman walked over and began to start to work on the bride’s hair. Three minutes past. Always in threes, three stitches to start, three minutes to finish off, three years since he fled Syria.

Show don’t tell

Barry was clever

It was 13:12, Barry was running approximately 17 minutes later than he had intended. He was not meant to arrive until 13:30 but the bus service often operated at an average of 7 minutes later than shown on the timetable. This meant that he would arrive at 13:19. This was an issue purely due to the fact the walk to the office would take 8 minutes at a leisurely stroll. That left him 3 minutes before the meeting was meant to start. He required a 5-minute minimum, the reason for this was due to it being the optimum amount of time to prepare oneself mentally and organise his notes. Naturally they were already colour coded and ordered alphabetically.

However now life had become a myriad of distress. His meticulously schedule had become pointless due to the unexpected explosion of his jack Russell’s bowels in the living room. Barry made a note to incorporate such unexpected fiascoes in future contingency plans.

Upon recalculating he worked out he could still maintain his 5 minutes early arrival to the office if his strolling pace was 1MPH faster than usual. While disconcerting he smiled to himself. Another simple problem solved, all of life could be condensed into statistics and or algorithms. For example, this morning he had perfected his egg frying process to have the perfect consistency and texture after having analysed the usual cooking times suggested by online chefs over recent weeks.

 

She answered the phone and gave her name. She said she did not take cold calls and that she regarded them as an invasion of privacy. She added that she was especially not interested in double-glazing.

“Hello, Pamela Banks clarity consultations how may I help?” Pam picked up the phone and the smile on her face quickly dissolved into a furrowed brow and an audible sigh. “No my dear I really don’t have time for you right now” she tried explaining to the owner of the thick Indian accent on the other end of the line. “I don’t much care if it’ll only take a minute.” Pam’s speech was beginning to get sterner now. “Listen,” the venom in her head no longer hidden by her voice “I do not take cold calls and to be honest they are a totally invasion of privacy. I would have given you my usual 30 second response and hung up. But no, someone doesn’t want me to get a word in edge ways do they? Someone thinks they’re so God damn important that they think they can’t let me tell them to politely go and stick they’re sodding double-glazing up they’re ass. Do I make myself quite clear?” After the Pompeii level explosion had cleared and the man on the other end had taken a few seconds to register what had occurred Pam then replied again after centring herself. “No, my dear, I’m definitely not interested in triple glazing and especially not in double glazing. Now please let those of us with real jobs get back to them. Good day.” It was at this point her beloved husband walked into the room laughing in a perfect recreation of the man’s voice “so that’s a no on the double glazing then?” shaking his mobile at her.

“Len you are such a prat sometimes” Pam smiled to herself. He was an idiot but he was her idiot.

Fear theme

Drip. Drip. Drip. It’s the idea of that sound, more so than the thing itself. The thought of it spilling out into a pool. Creeping down my arm, or my leg or God forbid my neck.

The red wine that flows through my veins becoming displaced to the opposite of its intended home.

The colour red has never been an inviting colour, why else would they say the Royals have blue blood? Everything must be pleasing aesthetically for royals, including what’s inside.

Pain isn’t something I’ve ever had any quarrel with, as it is not, in itself, something that is visually repulsive. There is a reason vampires drink blood, it’s purely because they are meant to represent all that is repulsive and the saying you are what you eat exists clearly for this very metaphor. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Dripping to the same tempo as a heart rate monitor in a hospital. A morbid irony. I see it in my mind, an expanse of crimson; a sea of disgust. It makes me want to be sick, but I’m not much fonder of vomit than I am of blood.

The first time I went for a blood test. I remember the feeling of nausea in the waiting room. This transitioned into breathlessness once I was seated in front of the nurse. Which quickly evolved, the way worry does, into a full on panic attack. I was assured everything was fine and calmed the motherly tone and nature of the nurse. She however was not aware that a minute from that point she would fail to find the vein she needed. She was also not aware that it would take her 4 attempts to find said vein, by which point I’d already been mercilessly stabbed 3 times by her needle. Finally, she was also not aware, (and neither was I) that the process was going to go horrifically wrong resulting in my personal red paint redecorating the room. Drip. Drip. Drip.

My hands begin to shake, it’s starting. The headaches are getting worse. I have to go in. There’s always the possibility of a drip. It’s why I said I’d go clean. It’s never been the most pristine place but then when has a drug den ever been.  I can almost hear it, the dripping.

I can feel the craving. I need it. But drip. Drip. Drip. Of someone who’s gotten in a fight, of someone whose made him mad. Of someone who hasn’t paid up. What happens if one day I’m the one who’s making the drip? Drip. DRIP.

Evaluation of own work in reference to professional examples

In regards to my work this week I have acted on the aims I set myself last week with regards to experimenting with point of view. Rather than writing from the first person perspective I, instead, chose to use third person from the perspective of a specific character. This allowed me to show characterisation and the thought process of the character without limiting the description of the surrounding by their perspective. I found this a very effective method in terms of the writing done this week in class.

In regards to my writing I received favourable feedback in regards to my writing voice and tone; in that I have a distinct writing style and my tone appropriates a recognisable voice. I feel that this is due to my recent reading of both George Orwell and John Green.

With regards to the writing style used for the show not tell exercise about the character Barry, I tried to emulate the writing style of John Green’s book ‘An Abundance of Katherines’. I felt that this character was quite similar in thought process as Green’s character in his novel and therefore attempted to emulate this. I am very pleased with the result and attempted to show intelligence through his very calculated and methodical thinking. While this may not neccessarily indicate intelligence as far as knowledge it does hint at a sense of problem solving and the use of a mathamatical thought process denotes logic which is highly regarded as an intellectual trait. I really felt an attachment to this character despite the short ammount of writing time allocated to this piece. I felt much more like the story was telling itself rather than it being a very formulaic and adhereing to literary clichés, (that I have been dependant on in the past) at the cost of fluidity. This I feel has been due to the skills practiced last week in regards to free writing and charactisation. I feel like I am creating a fully three dimentional character with a life and future rather than a simple piece of text in which my character fulfills a stereotype.

With regards to the piece based on a real life researched piece of writing, I feel this was successful. A real sense of theme came out in this piece, of displacement and trying to gain acceptance. I found the story fascinating to research due to it being such an anomaly for a news story to be something so positive. While I did take quite a few liberties in regards to characterisation (due to lack of credible information and sources), I feel like it is a well structured narrative recreating the story. In a way I was influenced by Ernest Hemmingway’s piece of writing for the Toronto Star in 1922 regarding a shooting. While it does not closely adhere to the journalistic elements clearly denoted in the Hemmingway piece I feel like it could easily be adapted to read as such. During next week I would very much like to write a more journalistically focused piece in the style of Hemmingway coupling the literary techniques taught through the creative writing skill development with those learnt last year regarding journalistic technique. This style of writing is almost like a feature piece in nature which is something that is heavily prevailent in the gaming journalism industry; therefore learning to emulate this style would be very beneficial to my future intended career in this field.

With regards to the theme of fear writing piece I found this once difficult. It is something that I generally try and avoid in my writing and therefore found this challenging. Through the use of methaphor and extended methaphor I found it realitively easy to set a nervous tone such as through the use of wine as a visual representation. I tried to build up a visual image of blood before using the word itself. I wanted that build up so as to show the reader that this was more than just blood to character, the blood embodied his fear. In this sense the entire piece is one large methaphor, he has a fear of blood in as much as he has a fear of the drug den and his fear of blood is linked to this. I felt this was a good addition to the piece as it was not originally intended to have this aspect. The suggestion rounded out the piece with coupling the motivation of addiction and the preventive nature of fear. The two are almost a oxymoron when used in conjunction, creating this kind of paradox. He is too scared to enter the drug den due to fear of it, but he has to in order to get his fix and by going in he continues this circle. As a exploration of theme I love the idea, however I feel like this could have been implemented better. While I wanted to show fear through a first person perspective I feel the show don’t tell nature of the piece would of a suited a third person style better and this would have allowed for a more appropriate tone to show the fear of the character. I also feel that word choice could have been improved in places, the character I had in mind would likely not have been as descriptive or intellectual as I have them written and this is why the third person could have given this character a better opportunity to be explored in a more realistic sense. I also feel looking back I could have altered sentence structure as the piece went on to create a sense of panic; starting off with long drawn out complex sentences and ending with shorter sharper sentences as he begins to go into shock about his current situation as the choice of what to do begins to affect his mental state.

Bibliography

Green, J, (2006). Extract: Abundance Of Katherines, An. [online] Puffin Books Australia. Available at: http://www.puffin.com.au/products/9780141346090/abundance-katherines/340684/extract [Accessed 2 Oct. 2016].

Hemingway , E.H, 1921. Gunmen’s Wild Political War in Chicago . Organized Crime , [Online]. Available at: http://ehto.thestar.com/marks/gunmens-wild-political-war-in-chicago [Accessed 2nd October 2016].

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Week 2: Skills

One thought on “Week 2: Skills

  1. There is some stunning writing in this blog – the beginnings of a short story with punch and poetry. “three stiches… three years – simply beautiful writing. Great control over word choice and syntax.

    Other example clearly show the skills we have picked up over the first few weeks; combining them as well as looking at them individually.
    Your honest reflections demonstrate the journey your writing is taking and clearly shows the skills you either have or have developed over the sessions. The crafting techniques are illustrated and explained well throughout the blog. A joy to read.

    You can explore free indirect discourse within the 3rd person narrative – the narrator and character are psychologically connected or third-person narration that slips in and out of characters’ consciousness. In other words, characters’ thoughts, feelings, and words are filtered through the third-person narrator in free indirect discourse.

    Consider editing:
    However now life had become a myriad of distress. His meticulously schedule had
    However, now life had become a myriad of distress. His meticulous schedule….

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