Monday, May 14, 2012

The Words Become Flesh: Show, Don't Tell, Week 5





This week, you are not writing creative fiction.  You are writing a personal essay, and now you need to


SHOW AND TELL!


What you want to do is make an assertion strongly--use vivid words!  Paint the pictures with your examples.  Be very specific.  The tell us again what you feel and believe in a way that has already been validated by what you have told and then shown us.

Again, not to totally reiterate yesterday's post, but Sara Adams's essay is the epitome of this.

She tells us exactly what she believes:   If I have one operating philosophy about life it is this: “Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.”

She tells us that she has four reasons why she thinks that way, and then she tells/shows us these reasons:
  1. "Principle 1: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness."
  2. "Principle 2: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in empathy."
  3. "Principle 3: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in honor and it reminds me to honor honest work."
  4. "Principle 4: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in equality."
Then she shows us each of these four in action: (I have bolded the showing and underlined the telling and italicized them both.)
  • Humility and forgiveness:  "I let him cut me off in traffic, let him safely hit the exit ramp from the left lane, let him forget to use his blinker without extending any of my digits out the window or towards my horn because there should be one moment in my harried life when a car may encroach or cut off or pass and I let it go."
  • Empathy:  "I’ve held an assortment of these jobs and was grateful for the paycheck that meant I didn’t have to share my Cheerios with my cats."
  • Honor:  "They never took over a company ..., artificially inflated ...the stock ,,, cashed out their own shares, bringing the company to ... bankruptcy, resulting in 20,000 people losing their jobs while the CEO builds a home the size of a luxury hotel. Rather, the dudes sleep the sleep of the just."
  • Equality: "I am the equal of the world not because of the car I drive, the size of the TV I own, the weight I can bench press, or the calculus equations I can solve. I am the equal to all I meet because of the kindness in my heart."<--as shown in the rest of the essay
How do you do this yourself?  Well, you start like you did yesterday, and then, once you have found your metaphor/illustration, you expand on it three ways:
  1. With concrete sensory perceptions (images, words, sounds).
  2. With the intelligences (rhythm in your words, strategy, description that reveals personality, movement that solves or exacerbates problems).
  3. By bringing 1 and 2 together with the butter of the bolded section:  tying concrete observations (#1) to feelings/needs (the feelings they evoke in you and why--usually a response to meeting or failing to meet a need) and how you go about meeting those needs (#2).
So, for example,  my belief is "squirt unto others."  It illustrates my underlying values:
  • Sharing
  • Not going too fast/Allowing things to take time
  • Using rules as guidelines and letting empathy decide your actions in the gray areas
I can hook those to images:
  • Sharing:  all the guns in a bucket, children running with two guns to avoid handing over one, guns held high above the head of a younger one (and the younger one biting to get it back)
  • Not going too fast/Allowing things to take time:  getting rid of the super soakers, trying to coax bubbles out of the little holes to allow the water to come in.
  • Using rules as guidelines and letting empathy decide your actions in the gray areas: letting the biter run away with the gun he won, tackling the runner, giving second chances in the form of refilling the bucket...
I can add intelligences:
  • logic:  the one who waits for the others to run out of water and then squirts them while they try to fill up
  • kinesthetic:  running, holding above head (not just the actions, but how they change things)
  • personal:  sibling rivalry
  • visual:  the conjured up images and placement in action (not just the images, but what they can tell us)
I can link the two with the feelings and needs they demonstrate:
  • feelings:  anger, frustration, joy, excitement, surprise
  • needs:   rest, fun, friendship, competence, fairness
And hopefully I will have this essay for you to read at a later date!

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