Skills used this week
The skills focused on this week related to the understanding of genre and how best to portray this, perspective and point of view and how this impacts the writing process and knowing your target audience.
Firstly we began by writing a piece about water based on an extract from “The Looking Glass” by Michele Roberts. We used this writing to inspire our piece focusing on any body of water of our choosing. For this I first wrote from the perspective of a young boy who was very unimpressed by the water, using sarcasm to describe the scene. I felt this showed the scene in a different way than the usual expected lenghty descriptions, with a target audience of younger readers in mind (again taking from the writing style of John Green, in his book ‘The Fault in Our Stars’). After this I wrote a second piece from an entirely third person perspective trying to give the water a personality; I described it as caring and maternal. In this sence I got the opportunity to both experiment with target audience and how perspective can be used to target specific audiences. I felt this exercise was of great benefit and can be equally applied to journalism through what facts and which ‘character’ to follow in a story to target a different demographic.
After this we did an exercise were we had to write from the perspective of an animal or object; we had to give personality to something unusual. In this case I chose a pillow. I orginally tried to replicate the prose poem style, but while writing I found it took form more as a letter. I used satire and sarcasm to target this at more literary minded readers as well as those with an interest in more humourous literature. I applied the idea of ‘show not tell’ heavily with this piece. The piece says more about Steve through the opinion of his pillow that it would simply being told by the character themselves or a third person description. A pillow sees you in your bedroom when most people are most vulnerable and so I tried to explore the idea of this pillow growing bitter in the years it had been used by its owner, hence the occasional insult and patronising nature of the rhetoric.
We then researched different reading material. This ranged from greetings cards through to articles. We had to read the article and work out the intended audience and who could be included in its demographic. While reading the article I was researching I managed to correctly identify the publication it was taken from. By looking at the style of writing, the wording of the headline and the content I was able to work out it was from the Guardian. We then discussed the article and how despite the fact it was based on research of 18-30 year olds this did not make up the entirity of the demographic. It extended to Guardian readers as well as those who had children of those age ranges or links to such as university lecturers and adult educators.
Extract of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – John Green
Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death. Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.) But my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to see my Regular Doctor Jim, who agreed that I was veritably swimming in a paralyzing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group. This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side effect of dying. The Support Group, of course, was depressing as hell. It met every Wednesday in the basement of a stone-walled Episcopal church shaped like a cross. We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been. I noticed this because Patrick, the Support Group Leader and only person over eighteen in the room, talked about the heart of Jesus every freaking meeting, all about how we, as young cancer survivors, were sitting right in Christ's very sacred heart and whatever.
The Christening – Simon Armitage
I am a sperm whale. I carry up to 2.5 tonnes of an oil-like
balm in my huge, coffin-shaped head. I have a brain the
size of a basketball, and on that basis alone am entitled to
my opinions. I am a sperm whale. When I breathe in, the
fluid in my head cools to a dense wax and I nosedive into
the depths. My song, available on audiocassette and
compact disc is a comfort to divorcees, astrologists and
those who have ‘pitched the quavering canvas tent of their
thoughts on the rim of the dark crater’. The oil in my head
is of huge commercial value and has been used by NASA,
for even in the galactic emptiness of deep space it does not
freeze. I am attracted to the policies of the Green Party on
paper but once inside the voting booth my hand is guided
by an unseen force. Sometimes I vomit large chunks of
ambergris. My brother, Jeff, owns a camping and outdoor
clothing shop in the Lake District and is a recreational user
of cannabis. Customers who bought books about me also
bought Do Whales Have Belly Buttons? by Melvin Berger
and street maps of Cardiff. In many ways I have seen it all.
I keep no pets. Lying motionless on the surface I am said
to be ‘logging’, and ‘lobtailing’ when I turn and offer my
great slow fluke to the horizon. Don’t be taken in by the
dolphins and their winning smiles, they are the pickpockets
of the ocean, the gypsy children of the open waters and
they are laughing all the way to Atlantis. On the basis of
‘finders keepers’ I believe the Elgin Marbles should
remain the property of the British Crown. I am my own
God – why shouldn’t I be? The first people to open me up
thought my head was full of sperm, but they were men, and
had lived without women for many weeks, and were far
from home. Stuff comes blurting out.(Armitage. S, 2011)
Own examples of skills being used
Perspective of a pillow
I am a pillow; your pillow. My life is awful. My kind have been used predominently for the comfort of people with menial lives. I have seen you naked. I’ve seen the weird stuff you look up online. I’ve been mentally and emotionally scarred by the time you and Sandra tried ‘experimenting’.
For two weeks I was neglected and forgotten on the floor behind the bed. When you aren’t home I do whatever I like and its great. I pay no rent and myself and the duvet play cards and discuss politics, far too intellectual for you Steven. And to be quite honest I find the term pillow talk not even remotely funny and quite offensive, although I am fairly fond of the Zayn Malik song.
I feel I should inform you that I have recently begun seeing the bed sheet. I realise that work based relationships rarely work out but I feel this may be different; I’m rather optimistic.
But honestly I don’t feel like what I say matters to you; there is not mutual respect. You drool on me on a regular basis and when was the last time I was cleaned? I’ll tell you when Steve, never. Its just self self self with you. No wonder Sandra left you, try and think of others for a change.
Signed your unfortunate pillow,
Water was dumb. It was boring and this particular water was especially so, still and unloving; it was the worst. Arrogant too, thinking its so majestic just because it was like a liquid window. Whoever said “I really find lakes exciting”? No one, that’s who and James was no exception. It was just like in all those stupid smarmy books from school, the water gleamed and shimmered like the first star in the night sky. Ugh, just shut up. Despite the fact it was the largest expanse of water James has ever laid his eyes on, he remained thoroughly unimpressed.
Water narrative in a different style of narrative
The shock skimmed the surface, once, twice, three times before sinking below and enveloping itself in the clear and maternal embrace of the water. After the sound of the splashes had quietened, the silence returned going back to the state of peaceful slumber. The sun bounced around on the water jumping from place to place covering the gentle blanket of the lake’s surface. Ripples from the rock had now settled themselves with no evidence of anything having happened. Water could never be hurt or scarred; it always returned to it’s original state.
Evaluation of own work in reference to professional examples
I found that my work this week was a good exercise in show not tell for and allowed me to explore different mediums of writing to create a piece of good standard. While I have been fairly settled in a comfort zone the past few weeks this really allowed me to experiment with my choice of narrative.
The one piece I found particularly useful was that of the piece of writing I did in the perspective of a pillow. I found this really gave me free reign to explore a range of different and more complex methodologies in terms of what skills to explore and implementation. This allowed me to have the opportunity to use show not tell in a completely different format. While before I was showing through a first person perspective and free indirect discourse, this is the first opportunity I’ve used first person to show the character of someone through the perspective of another. The use of the letter feels very reminiscent to the style seen in later chapters towards the end of “The Fault in Our Stars”, in which a lot of characterisation is shown purely through how the person being written to is perceived by the writer of the letter.
I did find the water narrative quite challenging. This came mainly through the switching of narrative styles almost immediately after having written the first. I got into a specific headspace in my writing and it was very difficult to then stop this flow of thought and switch tact. This exercise really allowed me to focus on this quick switching of narrative and will be a useful exercise in future in order to prevent myself from entering writers block. I feel like this could be very useful in terms of having issues writing something in a specific narrative, for example a factual article could be firstly written as a monologue or script an then switch up the medium and writing style back to journalistic writing and adapting the written piece. This is also a skill that has been suggested to me during previous work experience at The Canterbury Times.
I found that without realising it I began to unintentionally explore theme in my pieces. Through both satire and more serious descriptive writing I was exploring a theme of being an outsider. The first water narrative showing this young boy who couldn’t understand everyone’s fascination and then the pillow feeling disrespected by its owner. I feel this has carried through from my writing from last week with regards to the Syrian refugee piece.
Throughout my writing this week I have found myself using a lot of satire and rhetorical questions to express show and not tell. I feel this was an effective way of combining show not tell with a more mixed variety of skills. Sarcasm and what one chooses to be sarcastic about says a lot about someone. This is something I tried to express through free indirect discourse in the first water based narrative. While when writing it I found it to be quite laborious, after going back and reading it again, I feel it flows nicely and gives a good characterisation of the character while also giving the water some character of its own.
My use of mixing up sentence structure I feel was very effective in my pillow piece. Switching from long complex sentence structure to short and simple basic sentences keeps the reader engaged and prevents the reader from experiencing fatigue. Overall I feel I can see a definite improvement in my writing so far and the exploration of skills has really tapped into inate skills in my writing I was not aware I could do. It has allowed me to explore different methodalogy for expressing a character and I have found it very eye opening in both literally technique and the way in which I format the medium of my writing.
Armitage, S. (2011). Extract: Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jan/24/simon-armitage-ts-eliot-prize [Accessed 10 Oct. 2016].
Green, J. (2012). The Fault In our Stars. pp.1-2.