Writing in Different Styles

As I go through my Re-Purposing project centered on writing a series of short stories, each with a distinct and different tone, I’m finding that it is a lot harder to not only write a story, but also to change my style, than I ever thought before.

From all the different things that I have written, I don’t believe I have ever really drafted a complete story that’s put together enough to read. Now, as I’m trying to formulate my thoughts, show without saying, and all the other things that English teachers used to point out in novels, I’m realizing just how hard it is to really replicate those effects. How do you set up an antagonist, create a plot, have a resolution, in such a short amount of time? How can I make my story show what I’m trying to say without turning it into another reflection piece and just having it plain and clear in white and black?

Changing my voice in my writing is even more difficult. Left to my own means, I find myself drifting back to the comfortable, same old style of writing I’ve always used. Somewhat pensive, serious, and reflective. But reaching out and trying a more humorous take, or a dry satirical tone, or even a whimsical one and combining that into a story is proving a challenge in itself.

As I continue with this project, I’m starting to reach out for examples. Short stories that I think have been crafted phenomenally. Voices that are different and intriguing to not only read, but to attempt to imitate. Suggestions, anyone?

Curzan

It seems a very delicate balance between managing all the rules and then breaking them.

It reminds me of that ancient Greek story and dilemma where the question is, if over time, you have a boat that has been replaced plank by plank until no original plank is there anymore, is it still the same boat? If we replace the English language little by little, incorporating modern slang or new age language, does it still remain the same Standard English, and would that be a bad thing?

She also points out how language can be a way to define and identify someone, whether for better or for worse. While this does create a certain type of stereotyping that can be alarming, certain authors purposely use these methods to create a certain tone or feel for the novel. Do you call them stereotyping and offensive if they actively use this type of representation? Does it matter whether they themselves actually speak like this normally?

The other debate, that we shouldn’t speak the way we write, is one that strikes me as particularly interesting. While growing up, I was constantly told that you simply cannot write the same way you speak, it’s not correct, it’s not sophisticated. But now I read books in dialect or stream of consciousness and sometimes I read books that follow grammar to the key. But what if so many people don’t even know the grammar rules that those who do know the rules become the minority? If no one understands or even notices, then does it really matter?

Like someone said in class though, rules are there for a reason and they were created because at some time, we needed them. But as languages shifts and evolves, maybe it is important to understand Curzan’s idea that they really are more guidelines, and not so much strict laws to abide by.

Haas and Flower

This idea of rhetorical writing seems rhetorical almost in itself, but then at the same time, not very well known at all. What we think when we read and how we interpret it is not something that we usually stop to think about.

Three points the article emphasizes are:

1. The meaning we develop when we read are both a result of information directly presented in the text and information that we add on as a result of our experiences and our environment.

2. Sophisticated readers know how to look beyond just the content, or knowledge searching when reading, to piece together the connections behind the author’s intention, audience, and purpose of the writing.

3. Those who practice rhetorical reading are able to get more meaning out of what they read, inferring claims that are not explicitly stated.

It’s very interesting to read the paragraph and see where I fall in the spectrum of readers. Although I pick up on some claims, I can also see myself referring to just the content or glazing over any deeper connections as I rush to read more to find more meaning in the entire piece as a whole. The way we process information now seems to be all about summary, grabbing the main essence of the piece.

But how are we to really know what the author’s intentions were? That is the common debate in English class in that how do we know all the hidden meanings that the author may or may not have wanted to address? No one will really know for sure except for the author, but this article does present a very good way for considering the different angles that we could approach to finding the intent behind writing. It’s a starting point to see if we can relate this piece to everything else we know about the world and other similar topics and not just see it as an insulated piece of paper with words on it. In a time when we are constantly trying to connect and interact, having the skills to join things and see how they fit together could be very valuable, in any type of setting.

I only wish there was an actual way to become a more rhetorical reader. How do we practice so that we begin to see these meanings? Is it just a result of lots of reading and conscious thinking about making these types of connections? Or does it have to do with how much life experience you have so that you can truly empathize with all the different things the author could be trying to say?

Either way, I think this article presents a very interesting approach to writing and one that I am excited to try out.

 

 

Golden Circle

One thing that’s been hitting the business world frequently for the past few years is the concept of the Golden Circle. A Ted Talk was published that explored the idea of a different way of spreading a message, of growing and creating a business, of executing a marketing plan.

The root of the concept is that the truly successful messages start with an understanding of why they want to do something. They don’t try to sell you on the appearance, aesthetic, or surface details. The successful products are those that are able to show consumers the ultimate reason they’re created and to have them connect with the reason that product exists.

So I wonder, does writing work the same way? We don’t write to show people all the words we know or all the concepts we try to explain, we write to get people to relate to us intrinsically, to understand why we write, agree, and then to read further. Only then will people be motivated to continue on and listen to what we have to say because suddenly, we share a common understanding.

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Golden Circle

 

Make My Writing Become Real

I write about reflection and introspection. I go on for paragraphs and paragraphs on stopping to take time for the world around me, to realize what is important and to realize that time is a precious commodity.

Then I rush off to the next presentation, take notes on the next company before running off to the next meeting. There’s no stop in my life, there’s no moment where I can take a breath and say, “Let me think.” If I want to do that reflection I need the time in the day, but my calendar is filled with barely five minutes in between. How do you do reflection when you have no time?

Writing for me, at times, is a hope for things that I haven’t been able to do. A fantasy world where I know what is truly important and have it all figured out. Or at least that’s what I thought. Now, it’s turning into more of a to-do list for the future that would make my life great if I had the time for it. But maybe that’s all it can be right now and that’s fine. Maybe awareness is the first step and when that awareness becomes great enough, time will open up in my schedule and my business career will learn how to share.

In a world that is fast paced and rewards staying on your toes 24 hours a day, I’m flying by with my toes barely touching the ground. When I get a moment, I stop and write what I wish could happen, and maybe that’s close enough for now. At least some part of me is thinking about if, even if unconsciously, and maybe sometime soon, I’ll be able to turn my writing into a reality.

Sullivan

“If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.”

Interesting, but not original. Anything in the world has to keep moving, to keep adjusting. A great novel, to remain great far into the future, has to have that relevance to all the ages that a pulp fiction novel lacks. A blogger has a tough life, but no tougher than all the other literary prose before it. Sullivan makes it seem like blogging is the ultimate challenge, the new age apocalypse that we have to overcome.

I think it is merely a different art form. There are people who do it everyday and it is now normal. For the person who wrote the first novel, they probably thought that that was the hardest thing to do in the world. No computers, no backspace, and all your hard work poured into one moment where the editor says yes or no. In the blogging world you write something that gets a no and then the next second you write something that gets a yes. It isn’t some Herculean feat, it is simply adjusting to a new age, learning to grow and adapt, and just like he said, the act of continuous movement.

I would also disagree that the act of blogging between blogger and reader is intimate. Separated by a screen, intercepted by thousands of other opinions, that reader is probably digesting the opinions of hundreds of people at the same time. They are feeding on the instantaneous thoughts of everyone and who knows whether your instantaneous thoughts are really what you believe? It could be in the heat of the moment where you say something, and then a day later you realize that that’s not what you meant at all. Nothing replaces personal interaction and I think blogging least of all. You blog to the millions on the internet like they were all the same person, but you talk to someone in person, you speak to them as an individual.

Literature Blogs

I’ve never really followed or tried to discover blogs before, I’m more of a news person where the Wall Street Journal is my home page.

But as I started to look through possible blogs that I would be interested in, and as I went from fashion, to art, to literature, I found a few that combined both what I used to read and what I could see myself reading religiously in the future. I’ve always wanted to engage more with reading, especially in college where time seems to fly away and the book I meant to read remains unopened on my desk night after night. So as I started to narrow in on what I could potentially follow, I thought, why not follow a literary blog that will give me a little taste of what’s out there and hopefully inspire me to pick up that book on the desk once in a while?

Words Without Borders has an interesting take on literature. It focuses on the international, both with novels and with news. It is a hybrid of the two things that I want to stay up to date on. One of the articles talks about book piracy in China and how that affects both the author and literature in general. Then there are reviews on people from Russia, from Mexico, from just about anywhere. An international career and lifestyle have always appealed to me and all of a sudden, right on this page, I had people sharing their thoughts, sharing books they loved from global perspectives everywhere. I now have the opportunity to study a little culture right from the U.S. and see a little of their lives right at my desk in Michigan.

Another blog that I chanced upon, Vulpes Libris, had the same kind of international focus, but they seemed to have a more original, quirky twist. The tagline and definition of themselves on their website is:

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

I saw it, smiled, and added it onto my bookmarks. Maybe a little more humorous, maybe a little more out of the box, but a nice turn of events in my hectic, but very business oriented schedule. With two blogs on my list of bookmarks full of corporate presentations and interviews, it’s a nice change of scene that I hope can survive among the Wall Street Journals of the world.

My Style

To analyze my style, I chose to look into an essay I wrote last year on the Polish writer, Wislawa Szymborska. As an academic essay, I argued that Szymborska’s Communist, rigid past helped her develop into a writer who embraced the unknown.

I had always grown up with the emphasis that the first person should be used as little as possible, especially in academic papers. This essay was structured explicitly: starting with theory, followed by evidence, followed by explanation, and loop back to theory. Repeat.

One of the things that I had wanted to pay attention to in this piece was the variation of my sentence structures. Looking back on it, although there are differences, a predominant structure still reappears quite often. The compound sentence with dependent clause, followed by independent clause was used quite a lot throughout. It’s almost as if I wanted to leave a little bit of  a cliffhanger each time before finishing the sentence so that the reader would want to continue reading the essay.

One thing that is pervasive throughout is word choice. I am very conscious of not using the same words and for preserving the aesthetic qualities of the sentence and of the entire essay as a whole. When I introduce quotes, I make sure that the entire sentence sways to the same rhythm. Even in other writing pieces, I’ve noticed that whatever tone I’ve been reading is in some shape or form reflected in how I write. If the piece is witty or humorous, mine takes on a more playful style. If the piece is somber and pensive, my writing becomes more reflective as well.

In some ways, I seem to absorb and reflect what I read and experience around me. But throughout my writing, my style tends to be more reserved, more formal, and more focused on the beauty of sentences, sometimes at the cost of wordiness.

Why I Write

Reading through both George Orwell’s essay and Joan Didion’s essay, the most important thing that jumped out at me is that there is no one answer to why people write.

Orwell claims that all writing must have some kind of innate political purpose, whether intentional or not. He also argues that a little bit of our past, our formation, is always present in our writing and is what makes us who we are. I would say that this little bit of our past from childhood is actually what dictates what our writing content is, and not some unknown political purpose. Having grown up in a very tumultuous time, fraught with political upheaval, his childhood must have been consumed by news on uprisings, filled with protests, and papered with propaganda. Naturally, then, he would grow up to think that all writing has something to do with something political.

Didion is the very opposite. She doesn’t focus on meanings, symbolism, or implicit analogies, she focuses on the peripherals, the details. To her, it is about description, and she hardly knows herself where her writing will go or what it will mean. She remarks that sometimes when people ask her about the deep inner truth of a sentence, she says she had no intention of it meaning anything else that what it said at the surface level. This, too, is a reflection of her childhood and her time at Berkeley where students were always taught to analyze and unearth hidden meanings. From a young age, she was distracted from these treasure hunts by the simplistic beauty of things around her. This tendency carried through into her later years and is why she writes with mystery and with the unknown.

But no writer is ever completely one or the other. Like Orwell says, he has political purpose, but can’t bear to cut out the elaborate details of an aesthetic piece. And like Didion mentions, she is always searching and questing for some kind of meaning in her work, and it might turn out to be political after all. The greatest thrill of being a writer is to try to explain something that is unclear, whether to you or to your audience, and then do it so beautifully, that they remember.