Moving from Narrative to Descriptive writing styles…

Calvin and Hobbs: trust Calvin to just ”get it” and the frustration we all feel sometimes when writing!

You should all be at the point of having completed Narrative Style writing, hopefully without too much writer”s block!

To consolidate your understanding of narrative the following mind map should assist you in remembering the key features or techniques of narrative style.

Narrative writing style:

 A sequence of events or circumstances that TELLS a story

The story should contain the following

  • Plot
  • Characters: ( entails: Physical descriptions, Actions and behaviours and Thoughts)
  • Setting: (Mood and atmosphere = descriptive writing)
  • Chronological sequence
  • Narrative perspective/viewpoint
  • Openings 

A flow diagram for Chronological sequencing:

Please do remember all these feature as they are relevant when doing a language commentary or analysis; your ability to decipher the features within a context of a story is the mirror effect of being able to write it, hence that you need to be able to create (with precision) a piece of writing. You will find the better you write your own pieces, the easier it is to analyse another writer’s writing.

With this understanding and quick consolidation of narrative writing, the next writing style that is to be considered is DESCRIPTIVE writing:

So what is descriptive writing?

Whereas, narrative writing appeals to one of humankind’s basic instincts, the impulse to share stories, descriptive writing deliberately sets about creating a picture, an image, a mood…

The ability to DESCRIBE something convincingly will serve a writer well in any kind of writing situation. The most important thing to remember is that your job as descriptive writer is to create, not tell. To tell is part of storytelling (narrative writing) and requires a sequence of events, a plot. To create a perfect picture requires using the best words in the best order in order to create the most detailed picture.

You can think of the process of descriptive writing like this: If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: “Wait a minute,” they think. “We’ll be the judge of that! Show us a beautiful tree and we’ll believe…” Do not merely rely on adjectives that attempt to characterise a thing’s attributes. Lovely, exciting, interesting – these are all useful adjectives in casual speech or when we’re pointing to something that is lovely, but in writing with substance and fire and life, they don’t do much for us; in fact, they sound hollow. We can see the picture and if we cannot see the picture in our mind’s eye it means we have an empty image.

Descriptive pieces should always bring to life your five senses. The sensory images that are brought to life almost always create a distinct mood or atmosphere that allows the reader to feel what you intended to create by carefully enhancing the experience. It is important to remember that mood is brought about by carefully chosen language and isolated selected detail. Thus, descriptive pieces are not cumbersome; they should not be overloaded with a lot of detail, but rather carefully planned with selected detail and language.

The five senses:  All senses must be described VIVIDLY and in many instances FIGURATIVELY:

  1. Sense of sight:        What do you see? The sky is never blue; rather, the sky has been painted in shades of grey that echo the moods of the cloud giant…
  2. Sense of hearing: What do you hear? What sound is being made? Do the jangling keys promise the release from imprisonment?
  3. Sense of taste:         What can you taste? Do remember that it is possible to, taste   the foul air…
  4. Sense of smell:        What can you smell? Chocolate certainly doesn’t like chocolate – chocolate smells like the decadent cocoa fields…And do remember: you can, indeed, smell fear, and so forth.
  5. Sense of touch: What does it feel like?  His pimpled face felt like a continuous mountain of ascents and descents…

Do you remember this picture and quote? Time to write DESCRIPTIVELY..(see task below)

Task: You were required to mull on this picture…remember? Indeed you do! I want FORTY (40) DESCRIPTIVE words or phrases (Word bank) for the picture that captures the quote. please comment on THIS blog (NOT your blogs)

…”Come Faeries, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!” ~ Yeats

For all AS Level student…yes, you will do a task on this…

The link is a nice, sweet watered down version of the message contained in Fight Club…this is narrated by a guidance counsellor; Fight club is far more hard-hitting – same message however…

A little movie/book fact about me: Fight Club – possibly my favourite movie of all time (yes really!) Chuck Palahniuk – possibly one of the most underrated contemporary writers of this century…

Rumblings from the underground # three….(with task)

Rumblings from the underground #3

Every day I come across a young white hobo, who stands beneath a tree on Cedar Road in Johannesburg, a busy afternoon intersection. He does not beg. He merely stands awaiting the generosity of passing motorists. His Mexican striped blanket slung over his shoulder, beard a little longer than the week before, his white sandaled feet stained brown with mud, yellow fingers; grimy and discoloured. It always strikes that he has this perfect little nose that remains dirt free. The motorists tentatively flag R10 notes at the edge of their half wound down windows and appear to almost throw the money at him on his approach, quickly moving the window from half-open to fully shut with deft speed. He returns to the tree. The other intersection hawkers stare at his pockets. He thrusts his hands into the ripped seams. He becomes a human safe. I drive on. Vivid images of rugby like tackling, talented pick pocketing to brute stranglehold grips sour my mind slightly, sure that none of these travesties actually befall him. Some days I have entire conversations planned in my head on approach the traffic lights to exchange with him, knowing full well that his vacant stare and constant muffled mumblings are probably drug induced. If the traffic light is red, I open my mouth to speak, but always withdraw the cave women like intonation to the inhale cavity at the back of my throat. Fear is a numbing motivational speaker at a busy intersection. I convince myself that my applaudable conversation would clearly not be as tantalising as the one he has with himself. I try to appease myself with the thought that the great poets relied heavily on opium to enhance their worded images. I find no consolation in these academic thoughts… Secretly I want to huddle him in my car and wash him. I consider ammonia, bleach, something that will make his rotting image disappears. But that’s just rude. I consider that the only reason I have a turbo injected car is to escape this interaction. That thought is not gratifying either. And so,  I transpose him by some mind magical force to a different time, a different place, a place….

Right AS Level’s, we know the following: 1) I can write (let that be a bit of inspiration! I am not some arb English teacher (there are many sadly) who only know how to crit! 2) I have started a character narrative, with two characters: me and the hobo (truly he exists and fascinates me immensely!) 3) I have used a first person narrative perspective, hence that this opening entails my thoughts, thus it is a true character piece 4) I have trailed the opening to a setting: note the word PLACE (this implies setting)

In the first two tasks on a) the mask and 2) Peter Pan I wanted you to focus specifically on the CHARACTERS – thus you would incorporate a) physical descriptions b) actions and behaviours c) thoughts (most of you used dialogue or direct speech; which is fine). The purpose of this rumbling is that you understand that SETTING narrative exists also. A setting narrative implies exactly that: that the setting will unfold the story and NOT the character.  Hence, the place becomes central to the plot of the story. Cambridge tricks you with questions like this; they will ask: Write a short story entitled ‘’The Immigrant’’, in which you bring about a sense of place and theme. (or some such) Can you see what they have done? The title implies a CHARACTER, yet the question requires that you write a full story based on SETTING and theme. Sneaky hey?! Don’t be fooled or caught by this in the exam, it is a common type of essay question and placed there to check if a) You have read the topic correctly b) remain within the style and form and employ the correct writing techniques that they require.

So, I leave it up to you to finish my story, but do remember I am creating a time and place paradox with my ending….you must tell the story from a ‘’Different time, a different place, a place…’’ thus you must make the place (the setting) central to the plot.

Task: Write the story (based on the place or setting from the point at which it stopped): 600-1000 word (You do not need to maintain my style of writing, simply tell the story from ‘’A different time and place’’…)

Rambling from the underground # two….(with task)

Ramblings from the underground # two…

What is it that makes one person a better writer than another?  For my part, the robotically academic, rehearsed answer is: practice. As with most endeavours it is actually the correct answer; , but makes for very little rambling and besides that isn’t really my pondering; my question is very deliberately: what makes one writer BETTER than another. So, my ‘ nonacademic’ wild card answer is: the fire that burns within you. The spirit as we call it; as Da Vinci has called it; as Nietzsche has rambled on about in philosophical muttering, as Pratchett has labelled it, as Kundera has exposed it.   Why do we have a proclivity to one type of story teller over another? We can contemplate that it has little to do with the writer but rather the receptive spirit of the audience. Or perhaps a combination of the transcendence to another world plotted by endless possibilities, grounded always in realism. We all want to be Peter Pan, but at some point our story becomes far more real when we grow up… when we expose our vulnerabilities as writers because we trust the audience will appreciate them as such.

Let’s think of Peter Pan; such a tragedy, poor boy to never grow up, to always win, to conquer Captain Hook, hence to never know defeat, to never know the paradoxical pain and euphoria of loving Wendy forever, to always only have fun… escapism is nice (with the rather insignificant emphasis on the insignificance of a word like ‘’nice!). But all this considered,  I want to know what happens to Peter without Neverland and Hook  and Tink and lost boys; I want to know what happens to Peter when he grows up…I want to know. I want to know what would happen if Peter’s archetypal ability of unending youth should abruptly come to an end. What if the archetype takes on a different archetype?

Now, imagine for a moment that you are allowed to touch Peter (if you are unaware of this basic facts, no-one is ever allowed to touch Peter – hence that Tink intercedes when Wendy offers him a thimble or Kiss) …imagine if you were allowed to touch him, thereby  destroying his archetype of unending youth, who does Peter become without youth. Who is Peter? How do you make him believable to the audience and other readers as someone tainted by a touch and manifested as a real man? How do you become a better writer than JM Barrie? How do you capture the spirit of a boy who died at 14 and will never grow up (JM Barrie’s brother died at 14, hence the Peter Pan stories). How does he become the grown spirit that captured JM Barrie’s writing fingers as a grown man?

I am the audience, enthrall me about Peter Pan as the archetype of old age – the Wise Old man – also known as the Sage, the Senex (in Psychology) or the Sophos. Merlin is a sage, Chiron from the Iliad is a Senex, Obi- Wan Kenobi is a sage. What happens to Peter should he be made wise old man archetype.

My point, with these ramblings, is that good writers are ALWAYS thinking…they are always creating new plots from old ones, new characters from old ones, new societies from old one….they are questioning constantly why, if a pen was lifted, it cannot continue now in a different time, place and emotion…

Tell me the story of Peter the wise man…

Yes, this is a task (600-1000 words)