Author Topic: On Writing  (Read 12320 times)

1SO

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #230 on: August 29, 2016, 09:17:29 AM »
verbALS, what do you have against paragraphs? I saw that review and had to take a deep breath before diving in.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #231 on: August 29, 2016, 12:01:56 PM »
Ha ha. At least, I haven't gotten to the point of no capitals and no punctuation, which feels like the norm in some places. I'll separate it, arbitrarily, into three paragraphs so we both feel at home.  ;D

Thanks for persevering.  ;D
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1SO

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #232 on: August 29, 2016, 12:47:32 PM »
I'm genuinely curious about paragraphs. Is there a 3-paragraph system that's considered the norm for good writing? I usually make a new paragraph when I'm making a new point, but sometimes my point is only a sentence long so I either have to come up with a way to tie 2 points together or I end up with really small paragraphs. I guess an opinion post could be done...

Para 1. Why did I watch this?
Para 2. What's good about it?
Para 3. What's not good?

...with a summary statement or clever out line at the end of Paragraph 3. How does everyone else format their paragraphs?
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #233 on: August 29, 2016, 02:11:47 PM »
My super secret method:

1-Intro
2-Something like a Plot Summary
?-??-Important Ideas
?-Conclusion

verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #234 on: August 29, 2016, 02:43:48 PM »
I only realised I had a three paragraph structure, when you told me I did.  ;D

I noticed that if I was talking about a film I had seen before I had more to say, twice as many paragraphs; which, I think meant I had more to say about what the director felt about the themes...instead of just identifying what the themes were. Also in retrospect you can nail down where the film sits in respect to the directors other films or in that genre.

I can see the point of structure if you are writing to a paying audience. Otherwise this is another form of pleasing yourself....without the tidying up after. So do what you like.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2016, 02:45:36 PM by verbALs »
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Sandy

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #235 on: August 29, 2016, 02:49:55 PM »
I'm happy if I can produce one paragraph. :)
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Junior

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #236 on: August 29, 2016, 03:39:34 PM »
I'm genuinely curious about paragraphs. Is there a 3-paragraph system that's considered the norm for good writing? I usually make a new paragraph when I'm making a new point, but sometimes my point is only a sentence long so I either have to come up with a way to tie 2 points together or I end up with really small paragraphs. I guess an opinion post could be done...

Para 1. Why did I watch this?
Para 2. What's good about it?
Para 3. What's not good?

...with a summary statement or clever out line at the end of Paragraph 3. How does everyone else format their paragraphs?

The answer to your first question is that it depends on what you call good writing and what the writing itself is. I think what you've outlined here is a pretty solid foundation to build on, so that works. In high school (and for the SAT) you're taught to do 5 paragraph essays which have a structure that looks like this:

1: Intro
2: First detail to support argument
3: Second detail to support  argument
4: Third detail to support argument
5: Conclusion

But that's also kinda BS. I'd say the sweet spot is somewhere between that rigid structure and verbALs' "do what I want" thing. The shift comes from your audience. Here, it's other people like us, so we can be a little looser with how and when we break paragraphs and structure because we're only doing it for our fellow filmspotters. If you start writing for a wider audience, you generally want to sand off some of the rougher edges so they don't stop reading what you've written halfway through. Giant walls of text are the quickest way to turn me off, because I'll get lost and then stop reading. Of course, writers like Pynchon and DFW do page-long paragraphs all the time and they are fine. But they are also geniuses, so good luck to those imitating them.
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Teproc

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #237 on: August 29, 2016, 04:23:11 PM »
Academic writing in France is very structured, so when I write in English here I specifically do not worry about structure... also my English was mostly learnt watching TV shows and movies + the Internet/some reading (as you may know, we're not the greatest at teaching languages), so I figure it'd be pointless to try and produce something proper, and write from the hip, so to speak.

That being said, I do agree that verbAL's walls of text can be somewhat discouraging, but it's mostly psychological. I noticed on Letterbox'd I tend not to read long reviews simply because of how they look : the space for text there is just smaller, so even a reasonable paragraph can look pretty huge. Once you're reading it though, it doesn't make a huge difference for such relatively short pieces.
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Re: On Writing
« Reply #238 on: August 29, 2016, 04:27:59 PM »
but it's mostly psychological

For sure. I have diverse instinctual reactions to my own reviews, depending on whether I'm looking at them on a computer or on a phone.

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oneaprilday

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #239 on: August 29, 2016, 11:51:13 PM »
In high school (and for the SAT) you're taught to do 5 paragraph essays which have a structure that looks like this:

1: Intro
2: First detail to support argument
3: Second detail to support  argument
4: Third detail to support argument
5: Conclusion

But that's also kinda BS.
5-paragraph essays are the worst, and in my experience usually look like this when students produce them:

P. 1. Intro: Here's an overly general, usually obvious, pretty uninteresting point.
P. 2: Here's one reason why my point is true.
P. 3. Here's another reason why my point is true.
P. 4. Here's another reason why my point is true.
P. 5. Thus, my point - let me just repeat that in case you missed it - is true.

I get why the 5-paragraph model is used as a teaching tool - it helps very young writers understand that an essay needs to revolve around a unified point, and every paragraph must link to that point in some way. Body paragraphs in this model, too, all follow the same basic structure (always beginning with a topic sentence), so students learn that paragraphs, too, like the overall essay, need to offer unity and coherence around a single point. 

One key problem with the model, though, is it teaches students they merely need to repeat a point or make a list of points, and so the thinking it produces is repetitive and simplistic (not to mention boring - for both writer and reader).

So, I spend a lot of time talking with my first-year college students about un-learning 5-paragraph writing/thinking and considering what it means to develop or evolve a complex idea. An essay still needs to be coherent (all the parts have to fit together); it needs a thesis (something it sets out to demonstrate, prove, support) - but the thesis is an idea, not just a simplistic statement, and just like real ideas (those that people might actually care about), the path to that idea can look a lot different, depending on the thinker/writer, depending on the audience, on the topic, and on a lot of things.  Within that context then, assuming an essay develops an idea, an essay can have 5 paragraphs or it can have 20; some paragraphs can be long, and some can be short; some paragraphs describe a thing; some paragraphs are a series of questions; some paragraphs offer an extended syllogism. The paragraphs depend, really, on what the unique idea being developed in the individual essay requires. 

That kind of writing, with no rigid model to squish an essay into, is harder - because it requires deeper, more complex, creative thinking - but it's also a lot more exciting because sometimes/often, you don't know exactly where you'll end up in your thinking/writing  :) (not true for the 5-paragraph model, where you already know that the conclusion merely repeats the introduction). 

I will agree though, Junior, that it takes a very good writer to make a very long paragraph successfully coherent - if a paragraph is, essentially, a unit of thought, offered up for the reader to digest, one unit at a time, a long paragraph can easily lose coherence; the logic and unity can break down if the thinking isn't crystal clear - the unit of thought becomes a mush of a bunch of thoughts.  And yes, while we could - and probably should - talk all day about what "good writing" is (happily, a frequent, repeated conversation in my English department), it's a real pain, as a reader, to try to digest a bunch of thoughts all mushed together, rather than a single thought at a time.  I think of a paragraph as a kind of extension of friendship to the reader: "here, I won't shove all my thinking at you at once; I'll give you one bit at a time, and we'll get there, step-by-step, together."