Author Topic: On Writing  (Read 11981 times)

Junior

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #240 on: August 30, 2016, 12:38:51 AM »
That's some primo stuff right there, OAD. You're giving me teaching ideas! Thanks!

One thing I like to do is to not only use the readings I assign for class as discussion points but also as writing samples. I'll pick out something the writer does well, be it structure or a particularly good paragraph or use of quotes or whatever and try to guide my students towards understanding what the author is doing so they can try to emulate it or do something wildly different. But at least it's a break from the dreaded five paragraph essay. So if you want to see if you can break out from what you've always done, start by looking at what other people are doing and go from there.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #241 on: August 30, 2016, 12:43:59 AM »
The more complicated the thought, the longer the words, the longer the sentence, the longer the paragraph.

If you are writing about fist fights and car chases; writing like you're in a chat room suits the form. Writing about feelings or emotions; doing them justice, might be better served by longer forms. Pictures speak a thousand words, so describing images meant to convey strong emotions isn't going to translate well into one liners. Even a review which says "I liked the movie" begs for a clarification of what "like" means in that context, ones own context. "I like it" feels like emotionus interruptus to me. In retrospect that film Perfect Sense wasn't meant to be dissolved down into words. It was very complex. I won't be silly and put that post back into one paragraph but that form feels like it fit how the film made me feel.

@Teproc: your writing is especially impressive for not being your first language.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 02:09:14 AM by verbALs »
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oneaprilday

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #242 on: August 30, 2016, 01:44:05 PM »
One thing I like to do is to not only use the readings I assign for class as discussion points but also as writing samples. I'll pick out something the writer does well, be it structure or a particularly good paragraph or use of quotes or whatever and try to guide my students towards understanding what the author is doing so they can try to emulate it or do something wildly different. But at least it's a break from the dreaded five paragraph essay. So if you want to see if you can break out from what you've always done, start by looking at what other people are doing and go from there.
Yes, this is great - and if you do this with a number of different writers who are excellent writers but very different in style (contrast, say, Annie Dillard, with Martin Luther King Jr.), students get the sense of how you can arrive at ideas by way of different, but all effective, routes.


The more complicated the thought, the longer the words, the longer the sentence, the longer the paragraph.
Not necessarily. A very complex thought can be communicated with relatively short words (they just have to be well-chosen! ;) ) and with short paragraphs and sentences (though, ideally, I'd say, you always have a mix of kinds of sentences and paragraphs - some longer and more complex, some simpler and punchier).

verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #243 on: August 30, 2016, 02:24:41 PM »
This was my opinion only. I'm not a good enough writer to do what you described. Probably you are. I wish I could read your writing here. I'm sad that I can't but of course that's your choice.

What I described was; having written 5 reviews over the weekend; the more complex the thought, the more complex the piece. The most complex film produced such a complex reaction it lost all structure paragraph wise; hence 1SO's reaction. So I'll stand by my opinion.

Actually let me credit the film maker since these are reviews. The most complex concept I wrote about was Miles Davis and what he represents within a complex artform. The film may have wanted to explore this ineffability but it never gets close so it doesn't stimulate any particular complicated observation in writing. David MacKenzie had such a strong personal handle on the emotional heft of his film that he delivered fully. Just identifying what themes are in his film is a bit basic. Talking about what they mean to MacKenzie and how he presents his own thoughts on the theme; what images he uses- that's where I want to be writing from.

Btw Virginia Woolf writes veerrrrrry long sentences which turn into page long paragraphs. It's quite a struggle to read.  ;D
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 03:03:06 PM by verbALs »
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philip918

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #244 on: August 30, 2016, 02:25:49 PM »
A good argument is like telling a good story:

P. 1. Thesis
P. 2: Primary argument supporting thesis
P. 3. Counter-argument! And why it's wrong (secondary argument)
P. 4. Third argument grounded in emotional anecdote
P. 5. Closing argument tying 2-3 together

oneaprilday

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #245 on: August 30, 2016, 04:38:53 PM »
I wish I could read your writing here. I'm sad that I can't but of course that's your choice.
Oh, for world enough and time to do it all.  This used to be the only place I'd go online to talk/write about film, and I'm sad that things aren't so cozy now. Now, my film time, when I can get it, is split among sites, Letterboxd, Twitter, and the more formal outlet of Seattle Screen Scene. The advantages of going to other sites, of course, is getting to interact with a bigger community and other interesting people - and writing for SSS gets me into film festivals and that kind of thing, which is, of course, lovely. I miss the old days though.

ses

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #246 on: August 30, 2016, 04:46:44 PM »
I don't get on letterboxd enough, it would be great when you post new reviews on SSS if you posted the link around here. Like in "new post on my blog".
"It's a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart"

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oneaprilday

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #247 on: August 30, 2016, 06:01:49 PM »
I don't get on letterboxd enough, it would be great when you post new reviews on SSS if you posted the link around here. Like in "new post on my blog".
I've felt weird about doing that since I'm not here as much as I wish I could be, responding to others' writing, but I'll put up some links if you'd like in the blog thread. :)  I'm back in teaching mode now and not doing much writing at all, but I did write a few reviews over the summer, eg. relative to SIFF.


DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #248 on: October 15, 2016, 05:42:37 AM »
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?

Paragraph changes reflect changes in ideas or a logical step forward. Sometimes I also change paragraphs for stylistic or rhythmic effect when I am feeling more literary. I have no set number of paragraphs or structure when writing though.

Thanks for fighting the good fight 1SO. Nothing feels more daunting than one massive block of text. It brings back PTSD flashbacks of Proust.

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."

Quetzalcoatl bless good teachers. Typical Anglo essay structures always leave me a bit flabbergasted.
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #249 on: October 15, 2016, 05:42:54 AM »
Happy to see this thread is still active.
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