May 27, 2005, 2:47 PM
Post #21 of 22
Re: [Moonshade] Question about Annotations?
[In reply to]
Do you mean I should paraphrase what the other writer has written? By picking 2-3 pages of the other writer's work and then rewrite it in my own voice and style?(and making sure that the other writer's points remain clear in my piece.)
What I'm suggesting is not just paraphrasing, but you're on the right track. Take 2-3 pages of another writer's work and identify what that writer is doing technically that most interests you. That would be where most annotations stop, and that in and of itself is a really good exercise. But you can take it a step further if you try to replicate the techniques yourself. Often you'll find that the techniques themselves go hand in hand with the voice and the style, so if you need to ape those a little that's fine. The real goal of the exercise is not to generate original work so much as it is gain a greater understanding of a writer's choices by a bit of constructive imitation.
There are some excellent examples of writers doing this. Take the Prologue of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. He's doing a brilliant mimicry of Dostoevski's Notes from the Underground in a way that's completely relevant to his story. Of course, my suggestion is meant only as an exercise, so don't expect a work of genius to emerge. But Ellison's the most accessible example of this sort of thing I can think of.
Or take the first sentence of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily":
WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years. You could do an exercise on that sentence alone. There's just so much there. There's the narrator himself: third-person but not distant third-person. He refers to "our town," so he's more of a "guy down the block" third person, which makes him (and by extension us) personally invested in what happens. There's the wonderfully rich depiction of Emily -- she's wealthy, honored, feared, distant and alienated. You know who she is before you even meet her. And you have drama: what happened ten years ago? Add to that the tone of the gracious raconteur on his porch swing ruminating over a pipe, and you have the start of an almost impossibly captivating tale. Every single effect in that sentence is deliberate. Internalize some of Faulkner's choices and you will have availed yourself of some of his talent.
So what could your exercise be? Well, start with the situation. Something happens in a society that galvanizes an entire group reaction to it. The narrator is close enough to the situation to be a concerned onlooker, but not so close as to be implicated in the story that emerges. You know you need a magnetic personality in the middle, a character you can introduce through the group, and the tone needs to be warm and friendly so you can get beyond a truly dark mood.
You could write an essay on "brilliant ways to introduce a character," but I think it cements the lesson that much more if you try the techniques on for size in your own work.
(This post was edited by rtperson on May 27, 2005, 2:54 PM)