Friday, March 11, 2011

Pushing a Chain

My class today was remarkable. We dissected features, and analyzed what made these stories so good. All the ones we looked at today had won Pulitzer Prizes.
What jumped out in each of the stories is that the writers started with a powerful topic, and then wove simple words into a compelling story. 
The writers we looked at today used words to show the reader instead of telling.
Instead of saying the woman was small, Rick Bragg said --

She is 5 feet tall and would weigh 100 pounds with rocks in her pockets. Her voice is so soft that it disappears in the squeak of the screen door and the hum of the air-conditioner.

He could have said that she was frugal but instead he said--

She spent almost nothing, living in her old family home, cutting the toes out of shoes if they did not fit right and binding her ragged Bible with Scotch tape to keep Corinthians from falling out.
That painted a picture in my mind.

We also talked about interviewing techniques and how to "be there" when you're interviewing someone. Pay attention to the setting, body language, mannerisms, and physical attributes of the subject.
Then work to weave these facts into the story without "listing them."
It sounds so simple, until you try to do it yourself. Then it's kind of like trying to push a chain.
I left the class feeling good about where I am, but also realizing that there is still so much to learn.


  1. Rick Bragg is a master at word weaving, huh??
    Tape to keep Cointhians from falling out?? giggle,...laugh out LOUD!! Good one!
    Writing is such an art!! You have the gift too!!

  2. Wonderful examples of the old adage "show don't tell". What a great class - thanks for sharing these snippets - and yay that you are enjoying it too! take care

  3. Loved all the "words" and have always loved to picture them in my mind.

  4. I wish I had the talent you do, but I'm grateful that I can appreciate it! Nothing I like better than a good read!


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