Presentation on theme: "SEEING SPECIFIC DETAILS Nouns and verbs. In novels of writers… Like J.R.R. Tolkien, Sue Grafton, Jack London, Suzanne Collins, characters never “go."— Presentation transcript:
In novels of writers… Like J.R.R. Tolkien, Sue Grafton, Jack London, Suzanne Collins, characters never “go into the woods and build a fire” Instead, they “trudge into the deep resin-scented darkness and gather dead sticks and cones to make a fire.”
In novels of writers… A slave girl fearful her child will be sold into slavery doesn’t just “leave the plantation with her child in her arms.” Instead “the frosty ground creaks beneath her feet, and she trembles at the sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow send the blood backward to her heart and quickens her footsteps”
Difference? Professional writers paint with specific details. Look at the difference: “The child ran out of the shelter toward the beach, went into the water, and swam” Versus Jean M. Auel’s image: “The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the river…She splashed into the river and felt rocks and sand shift under her feet as the shore fell off sharply. She divided into the cold water and came up sputtering, then reached out with sure strokes for the steep opposite bank”
Motion picture Auel’s image of the child creates a motion picture in your mind with sensory details. You are right there experiencing it with the character. You hear the splashing water, you feel the shifting sand between your toes, you are gasping for breath. Those details create 3-D images in your mind. “The more specific the language, the more the reader believes and trusts the writer.” Donald Murray
Recognize Image Blanks Don’t describe a character as “nervous.” That is an image blank, a word that shrouds specific images and gives the reader’s imagination very little to visualize. It is like firing a blank, shooting a photo with a fogged lens-pointless. The reader’s imagination is traveling through a mental desert, barren and devoid of colorful details.
Recognize Image Blanks Instead, describe the character like this: Glancing at the midnight moon’s shadows from one side of the dark alleyway to the other, biting her nails while rivulets of perspiration soak her eyebrows, she waits in the darkness. She is “nervous.” Versus Glancing at the midnight moon’s shadows from one side of the dark alleyway to the other, biting her nails while rivulets of perspiration soak her eyebrows, she waits in the darkness. Which one is better to help the reader imagine the scene?
Recognize Image Blanks Which is better at creating a strong image for the reader? “In came a dog.” Or “In came Charlie, the pit bull, frothing at the mouth” What emotional connections and specific images does the second sentence give the reader? What sensory connections does the image give the reader?
Recognize Image Blanks Which is better for the reader? “She put her child in bed.” Or “The mother kissed three-year-old Charlotte tenderly on her soft cheeks, chubby and rose-colored, and nestled the covers snugly under Charlotte’s tiny legs and arms.” Why? What emotional connections does the image give the reader? What sensory connections does the image give the reader?
How do you get more specific? Let’s start with focusing on your nouns and verbs. Robert Newton Peck says, “Writing is not a butterfly collection of adverbs and adjectives. Good fiction is a head-on crash of nouns and verbs”
Activity Fold paper in half On one side write a list of ten nouns (horse, dinosaur, volcano, etc.) Flip over the paper and write a profession on the top (doctor, lawyer, chef, dancer, plumber, etc.) Then write ten specific verbs that relate to that profession. For example: Chef Sauté Simmer Marinate Dancer Pirouette Leap Bend Now open up your pages and choose a noun and verb combination to make a unique sentence that makes sense. Examples: Dinosaurs marinate in the earth. Posies leap toward the sunlight.
Choosing the best words Words have meanings that vary and get less or more intense. Let’s look at angry. Synonyms of anger are frustrated, furious, irritate, fume, irate, livid, and many more. If we put these on a scale of intensity it might look like this: Frustrated irritated anger fumed furious irate livid Less intensevery intense Choosing the right word makes all the difference.
Try with watch Look up words in the thesaurus for the action to look(or see). Or write down words you know mean to watch. Try some of those words out in a sample sentence to see if you can hear the differences. Megan looked at the moon. Megan peered at the moon. Megan glanced at the moon. You try a couple… Megan ________________ at the moon.
Try with run Look up “run” in the thesaurus. Or write down words you know mean “run.” Try out a couple sentences with some of the words you found: Josh _________ towards the bus.
Try with Your Own Look up your own verb (maybe use one from the list you made yesterday) Write a sentence and then change the verb in the sentence to see how it changes the meaning of the sentence. Try to create at least 3 sentences.
Go back to your journal Underline the verbs you used in your journal (either for today’s entry or yesterday’s). Now, go to the thesaurus and look up better verbs to use. Remember to take out WAS, IS, AM, ARE, WERE verbs. Those are “image blanks” and do nothing for the reader. Try to use instead verbs that show meaning. Rewrite two-three lines from your journal with the better verb choices.
Try it again… Look up “talk” in the thesaurus. Or write down words you know mean “talk.” Try out a couple sentences with some of the words you found: Liz _________. Liz _________. (if you need to add something to the end of the sentence to make it work, do it.)
Once more… Look up “said” in the thesaurus. Or write down words you know mean “said.” Try out a couple sentences with some of the words you found: “Get out of my way,” Alex _________.
Short story We are going to start writing a 3-6 page short story. Today I want you to start thinking about what you want to write about. W are going to story board your ideas first. Then, you will begin writing. When you are writing, remember you first need a really powerful, intriguing lead. Also, don’t rush the action or the events. SLOW DOWN on important parts. As you write you want to take the reader slowly through the story and “show” them a movie of what is happening (not image blanks of what happened. Use the techniques we’ve talked about so far… the brush strokes, clear nouns, active and exact verbs. Try to get the first paragraph written today.
Details using Adjectives Adjectives can be added to writing to define images, but be careful! Too many adjectives are shapeless and lead the reader nowhere. Fro example, “the beautiful mountains.” The adjective “beautiful” creates no clear picture of the mountains. It is formless, unclear and simply an opinion.
Adjectives As I read some of these words, try to picture an image in your head: Caring, playful, lazy, immature, happy, shy, nervous, brave, cranky, and trusting are all adjectives that are unclear. You probably pictured something entirely different than I did.
Adjectives Adjectives are good to use, sparingly! They serve a purpose for generalizing, but should only be used when absolutely necessary and should be followed or proceeded by specific, clear images-nouns.
Adjectives A second problem is too many used in a row. Too many adjectives can destroy the picture or minimize the significance of each adjective. Look at this example: Betty entered the room. A red ribbon contrasted her coal black hair, and she or a pale blue dress with a violet flower design. Her new black patent leather shoes reflected her unusual red socks. Betty was chewing gum and carrying a small brown purse that did not match her outfit. This is adjective OVERLOAD!
Adjectives To be effective, writers must exercise choice! If you use an adjective, make sure it is used for emphasis, used sparingly, and only if it contributes to the meaning of the story. Look at this example, “The dilapidated car chugged into the driveway, dented fenders rattling, the bumper dragging on the pavement, the engine sending bellows of white smoke as the car came to a stop.” Dilapidated sets up a controlled generalization and the rest of the details add to that general image-clarifying it. (Notice the use of the absolute?)
Prepositional Phrases These are phrases that are added to sentences. They are extra information that can be taken out. They are only there for added effect and are not part of the original sentence. Prepositional phrases begin with words that show location or position. Here, above, below, of, under, over, near, behind, with, etc. Example of a sentence using a prepositional phrase: Under the dark sky, the broken road glistened in the rain.