Monday, April 16, 2012

The Words Become Flesh: Show, Don't Tell Week 1

Now that we've got our story down and we've begun to get to know why we have written what we have and how to make that purpose more apparent to the readers, we have to help our readers feel that they are there.

One of the best ways to do this is through our senses:  sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.  And those are easy enough for you to locate.

Another way to draw in our readers, and one that takes a little more work but is definitely worth the effort, is through our intelligences.

In 1983, Howard Gardner posited the theory of multiple intelligences in his book Frames of Mind, available at through our Allegheny County libraries here or through Amazon here.  Gardner's idea was that people learn, express themselves, and solve problems in multiple ways--or through multiple intelligences.  These intelligences are:
  • Visual-spatial - working through by what you see, re-expressing things through visual composition, understanding how things fit
  • Logical-mathematical - deduction
  • Bodily Kinesthetic - movement
  • Musical - expression through music and rhythm.  Poems often exploit musical intelligence through rhythm.
  • Inter- and Intra-personal - understanding the emotions and drives of others and yourself
  • Linguistic - words
Gardner later discussed these other intelligences in subsequent works:
  • Naturalistic - understanding similarities and differences, seeing patterns
  • Existential (possibly) - understanding that which is "more" or "beyond"
Using these intelligences helps us to do more than simply make our reader "sense" where we are and how we feel.  It invites them to reason with us.  For example, consider this passage from my revised portion of writing from Friday:

"As the still hot sun began to wane ever-so-slightly around the baby-neighbors' naptime, the pool always confronted us upon our return from snacktime, Ritz cracker crumbs still clinging to peanut butter puckers on the corners of our lips.  A seeming jungle of grass clippings always greenly coated the top of the water.  It didn't matter if it had been ten full days since Dad had cut the grass in the late summer dryness, clippings still managed to invade our ten-inch water hole.  Daily we eyed it with that surprise that always comes of re-seeing that which you have most recently been parted from.  Was it really that gross when we climbed out? we wondered.

"But within a few minutes, we abandoned our towels and leapt over the edge beginning our whirling dance around the pool's outer edge.  Faster and faster, we raced in circles, seeing the house and tree whiz by on the outside and feeling the grass glide toward the center and the edges as the water swelled and pressed outward.  Like the world's largest bathtub, a whirlpool slowly materialized in our wading pool.

"We again leapt over the edge, ever so gently so as not to disrupt the whirlpool.  We all rushed to our mammoth sandbox where our neighbor retrieved the sand sieve and ran back to scoop out the grass, now clustered in the swirling center of the water.  After all, 7 months older than me, she had the longest arms.

"Finally, grass removed, we now stepped into the tepid water and sat down.  On grit.  Oops.  We'd totally forgotten about wiping off the sand."

Is it perfect?  No.  But I have expanded using the intelligences.  The discussion of our motion not only appeals to the reader's sense of sight but to his or her actual muscle memory and kinesthetic sense of how and why things move--the peanut butter sticks, the water spins, the sand clings.  The reader has a better understanding of this world and its workings. 

Other intelligences (not all, but some) are there as well:
  • Visual-spatial 
    "still hot sun," "Ritz cracker crumbs still clinging to peanut butter puckers on the corners of our lips," "seeming jungle of grass clippings," "greenly coated," "ten-inch water hole"
  • Logical-mathematical
    "Daily we eyed it with that surprise that always comes of re-seeing that which you have most recently been parted from.  Was it really that gross when we climbed out? we wondered."  Also, the logic of using the whirlpool to collect the grass.
  • Musical
    The long sentences of the second paragraph speed up your reading before the next paragraph slows them down again.
Considering these intelligences and adding a few of them in or simply emphasizing ones that are already there will help draw your reader into your world.

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