Thursday, December 9, 2010

finding your voice

We're working on writing short narratives this week. In class we had time to talk about conflict, and theme, and structure, but we didn't have any time left over to talk about what it is that makes writing narrative so much fun -- voice, description, all those things that make the essay belong to you.

I love reading this week's assignments because here we are in the last week of classes, and yet I will be amazed by the writing. It will be like nothing my students have written for me so far. I will get to know my students here in this last week, right before they go off to their next session. The narrative is such a natural form, and their voice, something students might be unsure of in those formal papers from weeks one through four, comes out naturally. Some essays will make me laugh out loud. Others will be poignant. At least one has actually made me cry. Some will make me do both.

As my students work on their narratives, I wanted to share a few passages from some of my favorite get everyone thinking about how authors use vivid language to set the scene, and also to get everyone thinking about what their own writing voice might sound like.


Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, p. 157:
"The child maintains -- she has always maintained -- that she remembers being born. It is a surefire attention getter. "I remember," she says, "the light hurt my eyes." Many of her anecdotes are literary like this, and more than a little self-pitying. Should I stop hugging her so much?"

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, p. 130:
"No one came to the gas pump, so I went into the lunch room. A sound of a quarrel came from the back room, which was probably the kitchen -- a deep voice and a lighter male voice yammering back and forth. I called, "Anybody home?" and the voices stopped. Then a burly man came through the door, still scowling from the fracas."

Frank Conroy, Stop-Time, p. 208:
"Once, at the county fair, Tobey and I had been paid twenty-five cents an hour to sit, fully clothed, on a trick seat six feet above a huge tank of water. It was a delirious afternoon. our instructions were to be as insulting as possible to the customers--an activity at which, once we warmed up, we excelled."

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