Part four in Writing Skills covered style and language. The assignment was to work on a short story paying attention to the development of my voice, the persona I used for my character, and the imagery I used. With the tools learned, I used imagery to develop a character from naïve teenager to broken man. The story was in first person; therefore, the development of the persona was also the development of my voice.
Style is the genre of a story. At present, my genre is short stories based on family stories. While doing an exercise that suggests reading work aloud from my notebook, I read an old family story about my grandfather during the war and decided to use that story for my assignment.
Stephen King thinks “that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, ‘I wonder what he… will think when he… reads this part?’” (256). During an exercise where I free wrote to an “Ideal Reader,” I wrote to my mother about her father. I wrote all the ideas in my mind and created the first draft of my assignment.
The Writing Skills Course Book states that an author’s voice is not necessarily their own, but could be the persona that they take on to tell the story (133-137). Moon Palace by Paul Auster is in the first person. This helped to build intimacy with the protagonist, Fogg. Because of this, I chose to write my assignment in first person. Auster clearly indicates where Fogg is in the story: “I came to New York in the fall of 1965. I was eighteen years old then” (1). This is also a useful tool to transition between different times and space and move the story forward. I imitated this in my assignment, for example: “Last year, at the age of 16, I left home for king and country. Home was Tottenham in London. It was 1915 and I was ready to pick up a rifle.”
Language should be simple and clear. During redrafting, abstract concepts and flowery language should be edited to help place the reader in the story rather than telling the story. The Writing Skills Course Book states that “Fowler, of Usage and Abusage fame, had some definitive things to say about simplicity” (142). Using Fowler’s preferences, I tightened the assignment. For example, I changed the long words to the short by replacing “the trench is unusually empty” with “I am alone.”
Fairfax and Moat state that “a writer is interested in grammar in so far as it can help him to write more effectively” (25). While discussing grammar, Fairfax and Moat recommend concrete nouns over the abstract: “Tell her you are in love with her. It sounds grand, but what on earth does it mean? Give her a string of racehorses… or a kiss… Then she knows exactly what you mean. “ (27). As an example, when editing my assignment for abstract nouns, I changed “I feel heavy” to “My heart is so heavy it seems to pull my shoulders to the ground.”
Imagery uses metaphors and simile to show the reader what is happening. In Lolita, Nabokov uses imagery to show Lo as excited about new clothes as a hunter is about finding a rare bird: “very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings” (120). Hunting is an image used in Lolita to highlight Humbert’s abuse of 12-year-old Lo. To highlight Sid’s youth in my assignment, I used two similes from the circus/funfair. One described a man looking like the strong man in a circus and the other described the wheels on the gun like the big wheel in a funfair.
In conclusion, I have learned to develop my voice, the persona I used for a character, and the imagery I use. I produced a story that developed a character using imagery. In future, I need to continue to practice effectively weaving description into a story. With these tools, I created an assignment that met the requirements of Part Four.
Auster, Paul. Moon Palace. Great Britain: Faber and Faber Limited, 1989.
Fairfax, John and John Moat. The Way to Write: A Complete Guide to the Basic Skills of Good Writing. Great Britain: Elm Tree Books, 1981.
King, Stephen. On Writing. Great Britain: Hodder & Stroughton, 2012.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. Great Britain: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1959.
Open College of the Arts. Writing Skills, 2016.