Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Response 5: Language

Due  before class March 19, MONDAY CLASS, or before class March 20 (TR CLASS)

The topic this week is Language. 

I started this semester by saying "Think scene, not sentence." In this class, I focus on macro issues, because I think that most creative writing classes focus on the micro over the macro. But this week, we get to talk about sentences. About language.

First, read this article on the way in which The Great Gatsby was re-written for younger readers.

Here's the original passage from Gatsby: 

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.

In the rewrite, the editors turned those two paragraphs into this: Wind blew through the room until Tom closed the window.

Your assignment for this week is this to answer these four questions:

1.) How do you feel about this rewriting of Gatsby? Is the original excessively flowery and the revision better? Or do you feel differently? How do you feel about sentences, about language, as a fiction writer? To what degree does language matter to you? Do you prefer books that are lyrically challenging or not? How concerned are you as a writer with sentence-level beauty and clarity? Has this class and its focus on scene over sentence, on quantity over quality been easy for you or difficult? (250-750 words)

2.) Of all the books we've read so far (Connell, Henley, Perrotta, Bakopoulos, and Horrocks) how would you rank them if the criteria was "attention to language"? Most attentive to least attentive. 

3.) In each of the four Horrocks' stories, select one sentence that you find striking, beautiful, unique, etc. The BEST sentence in the story. Then rewrite it badly or too simply or awkwardly, etc. What is good about each of those sentences? Change it. Remove it. (So four sentences and four rewritings of those sentences.)

4.) What's one question you want to ask Horrocks when she visits our class next week? You can also read this great interview with her to learn more about her! She says she's working on a novel about Erik Satie. He composed this song, which you have heard, although you may not realize it. 

Enjoy In Print! https://www.facebook.com/events/157353087718886/ 


  1. 1. To be honest, both versions of the text (Fitzgerald's original and Tamer's rewrite) could be considered acceptable to me. While I abhor the idea of altering a novel with the intent of making it “more accessible” to readers, I was also a little dismissive of the article decrying the changes. Word choice, certainly, is important; the difference between “wet” and “moist” are huge, to be sure. But it's when I see readers digging into exact meanings of word choice (the wine-colored rug equating to class, for instance) that I just want to cringe. I never want to say that writers don't think that deeply about that word choice—that is false—but I don't want to say writers set out choosing words just for you to draw that meaning out of them. That, I think, is distracting from the story that the author wants to tell. And, ultimately, we're in the business of telling stories in ways no one else can.

    That said, I love working at the word and sentence level with writing; I do it unintentionally as I write, thinking about what my word choice is, thinking about words and phrases I've already used and what effect I'll create if I repeat them or not. Of course, sometimes I make the wrong choice while writing “horizontally,” but I don't drop my level of consciousness about the words I'm writing. I still think really hard about the next word I want to say. But at some point I have to stop stopping and just keep moving on with the words.

    Even so, I'm having a surprisingly easy time generating words in this class. It honestly surprised me! I'm actually quite picky about my word choice in essays and the like, so it's almost a shock sometimes when I realize that I can write about 3000 words in an hour. I think part of it is that I don't think a lot about what I'm writing at that particular moment; I'm thinking a few words ahead to what I want to say next. Obviously everything that comes out of this method is not writing gold; it still requires a ton of polishing to get up to snuff. But knowing that I CAN generate that many words in that amount of time just blows me away.

    2. Probably Horrocks (excessively so), Henley, Connell, Bakopoulos, Perrotta.

    3. Zolaria: She cedes the lake to me, accepts the smaller for her kingdom, and I try to tell my father that night over carryout Chinese what I am only beginning to understand myself, that the way in which he loves me is not quite the way I wish he would. / She gives me the larger lake and accepts the smaller. That night I try to tell my father, over carryout Chinese, that he doesn't love me how I wish he loved me. // The original excels because it builds tension slowly over the course of the sentence and then punches the reader in the gut at the end with a feeling that, for some, is all too familiar.

    It Looks Like This: “You've got a skinny little heart inside.” / “You're just cold.” // Really strong imagery makes this short line excel.

    This Is Not Your City: The marriage is a gaping hush, an unraveling hole that cannot be darned. / The marriage is falling apart at the seams. // This sentence takes the cliché that I provided in the rewrite and amplifies it to a higher sensory level, retaining meaning but with new words.

    In the Gulf of Aden: He has eyes the color of wonder and a brain as slack and damp as an oyster. / All the curiosity is in his eyes, the emptiness in his head. // My rewrite drops out all the lovely imagery from the original, though “color of wonder” is probably a little vague. The buildup to this sentence is wonderful, though. Makes for a great punch at the paragraph break.

    4. What intrigues you about the present tense; what do you think it can do compared to past tense?

  2. I'm splitting this into 3 comments because apparently Blogger thinks I type too much.

    1) I think the original is nicely written and gives good details, but I don't know if I could handle a whole novel written like that. I did read Gatsby last semester and I often got so caught up in the detail that I would forget about the story to the point where I started skimming details that were beautiful but added nothing to the story.
    I don't think the revision was any better, however. While the description at times was excessive, there were times where it was important to impart the mood of the room. I admire Gatsby for his cleverness with words, but in the end it does little to move the story forward (although it does do something to the story, which is why I frown up the overly simplified version condensed by the editors).
    A few days ago I went to the special collections room in the library for a presentation and one of the speakers said something interesting. "We have two types of books here, books that are rare because they are pretty to look at and books that are rare because of the content." I feel like this statement reflects my own view on books as well. While I can appreciate nice language, in the end I value the story more than the words itself. I wouldn't reread a book just for pretty words if it was an awful story, but I will reread a book if it's bare bones and a good story. This isn't to say that books can't have both. Those are the best kinds, where the writer can balance the language and the story.
    I think anybody can learn how to use flowery language, but it's much harder to come up with good stories. If I had to choose, I would definitely say I prefer books with good story lines than good sentences. I feel like this is why Twilight and Eragon and even Harry Potter have done so well even though I've heard complaints about poor writing and claims that people make "my five year old can write better than that." The writing isn't fantastic, yes, but the story is intriguing. If a book is good enough, it should be able to suck you in so you don't even register the words but are watching it in your mind like a movie. I pay less attention to the "movie" in my head if I'm trying to read a fancy metaphor word by word and waiting for the symbolism to unfold in my head.

  3. That being said, there are some books I can't read because the poor writing prevents me from getting into the story. I can think of two examples that would shock people: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Stephen King's work (granted I only tried to read one collection of short stories by him and haven't tried reading others since so I may be wrong). I just don't like their writing style. So in the end it depends on the person, some people enjoy flowery language while others prefer the story. I'm wholeheartedly the latter.
    As a writer myself, I of course try to avoid cliches and overuse of adverbs and so on, but I do like to add in some flavor and good imagery. As for your question about how easy/hard has it been in this class, it has been so easy. Oh so easy. I love it! I came to college because I wanted to be a novelist, not to write short stories. I have no end to the flow of story ideas rambling around my head, and I found it stressful and depressing over the past 4 years when everyone would press me about beautiful language. I like good language, but I like stories better. I want critiques telling me what parts of the story works, not whether my character's hair should be described of as maple brown like syrup poured over pancakes instead of just brown. That stuff can come later!
    It is by far easy for me to write out a story with the bare minimum language, description and action and then go back and flesh it out. I am even willing to indulge in cliches in my first round because if I stop and think about it, I lose the moment I had of just getting the story out of my head and onto paper.
    My apologies, I got off on a rant.

  4. 2) This is a very tough question, haha. I’ve read so many books since then…
    I’ll just give it a shot:
    1) Henley
    2) Connell
    3) Horrocks
    4) Bakopoulos
    5) Perrotta
    Out of these, my favorite use of language is Horrocks. I absolutely LOVED her book. She made good use of imagery without going overboard or detracting from the story. Perrotta was also one of my favorites. It was a great book, and it didn’t need an overdose of imagery to keep us turning the page.

    3) I wouldn’t label these as the “best” sentences in the book because that is up to interpretation, but these were solid ones.
    Zolaria: “The Little and Big Sister Lakes are the eastern edge of what we named Zolaria that summer, simply for the sound of it, the exotic ‘Z’ and the trailing vowels like a movie star’s name.” (5)
    Rewrite: The Little and Big Sister Lakes are located in the place we called “Zolaria” because things that start with “Z” are rare and exotic sounding.

    *It Looks Like This: “Then I realized that the pain doesn’t travel so much anymore as live there. It’s settled on in, it’s farming her bones, and it doesn’t need to travel because it’s never going anywhere.” (26)
    Rewrite: She’s always in pain.
    *I know I cheated and used two sentences, but this was so striking I actually highlighted it when I read it the first time. It’s so simply yet true and heart wrenching.

    This is Not Your City: “The marriage is a gaping hush, an unraveling hole that cannot be darned.” (145)
    Rewrite: Marriage is a black hole that only grows bigger and can’t be shut.

    In the Gulf of Aden..: “Sometimes Lucinda could spend an hour touching the soft bottoms of his feet, the distinct whorls of toe prints that walking had never rubbed away.” (158)
    Rewrite: Lucinda would often stare at his legs, the legs that had never supported the rest of his body.

    5) Question for Caitlin Horrocks: “Where do you start with a story idea? Do you start with a character, an emotion, a setting or a theme?”

  5. 1) I personally like the original writing of Gatsby better. I like the flowery writing. I feel like it explains more and helps me picture more what's going on in the piece. I think sentences and language as a fiction writer are very important. A fiction writer needs to bring their story to life and make it believable. Therefore, they have to use detailed descriptions that help the reader understand what the author wants the reader to visualize. Some fiction writers create fantasies and things that people have never heard of. The author had to use great details and sometimes lyrical writing in order for the reader to understand what the fantasy characters are. This is why I find language very important. I do prefer books that are lyrically challenging. They draw me in and keep my attention. I am fairly concerned about sentence-level beauty and clarity. I have found this class to be sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. Some weeks I am able to scribble a whole bunch of stuff down for my 2250 words. Other weeks I find myself being more picky about how I word my sentences because I want it to make sense or simply sound good. Since I find language to be important, I like my work to be written with good language techniques. I love to write lyrically and make descriptions of something sound beautiful. I want my readers to think, "Wow, that was beautifully written." But I am learning that it is more important to get all your ideas down on the paper before you edit it and rip it to shreds.

    2)Connell, Henley, Horrocks, Bakopoulos, and Perrotta.

    3)I chose these sentences mainly because I found them funny and amusing.

    Zolaria: "'Ogan Veen, Ogan Veen, His farts all smell like gasoline, His stomach's full of children's spleens, Ogan Veen, Ogan Veen,' we sing" (4).

    Rewrite: We sing a silly song about Ogan Veen.

    It Looks Like This: "'My heart's bigger than yours,' she said. 'You've got a skinny little heart inside'" (23).

    Rewrite: She said, "My heart's bigger and yours is smaller."

    This is Not Your City: "Paavo works at the pulp factory, and the smell of him after a shift is the smell of the air over the town, the wind off the lake; it smells something like stewed cabbage, and the townspeople have only one joke about it" (141).

    Rewrite: Paavo works at the pulp factory and it smells like stewed cabbage.

    In the Gulf of Aden: "Wilbur and Lucinda Voorhuis were both fifty-one, and while Wil's round face carried the number better than his wife's, Lucinda often wore sleeveless dresses that showed off the long, firm muscles of her arms" (156).

    Rewrite: Wilbur and Lucinda Voorhuis were fifty-one but Wil looked older than Lucinda.

    4) I would like to ask Horrocks why she chose to write Zolaria in the point of view she did. I found it kind of confusing sometimes.

    1. Lacey, if you ask her this question, be sure to clarify what you mean by point of view. Are you talking about first second third or something else?

  6. Chelsea Westbrook

    1.I hate when book are rewritten. It bother’s me so much when the original is changed in any way. Books should be read as they were originally intended. If someone is not mature enough to read or understand a book then they should wait until they are mature enough and school should not assign the material as required until they think the children are at the right age. Books show history because of the way they are written; even though I disagree with the N word I still think it is wrong to take it out of Huckleberry Finn. This shows the reader how life was during that time.

    Language is so important in writing, the original scene in the Great Gatsby told the reader a lot about the story, but all that was taken away when they changed it. Challenging books are good, because they expand the reader’s knowledge. The more difficult pieces of literature a person reads the more they are learning about language.

    This class’s focus on scene has been difficult, but also helpful. I am getting a lot more done in my writing, but I know that I am going to change a lot of it down the road and it may end up cut in half by the time I am done with it. I would love to be able to write beautiful sentences off the top of my head, but usually it takes a lot of playing around with before I can write a half decent sentence. I do picture the scene and everything about it, so I think this class will help me go back and make things better a lot easier than before.

    2.1. Horrocks
    2. Bakopolous
    3. Perrotta
    4. Henley
    5. Connell

    Horrocks uses multiple different type of language in all of her stories. I believed each story she told because of the precise way she told it. I feel that Mrs. Bridge is the least attentive to language because it is almost all tell in that book. The language gets the entire story across, but I did not feel like it was anything special.

    3.I’m not sure if these are the best sentences, but they stuck out to me.

    Zolaria: “I won’t know how to tell him that I am still bracing for a day when Sophie complains of a headache that turns out to be something more, when Madison reels dizzily in gym class and the teacher sends her home with a concerned note.”

    Rewrite: I’m afraid of the girls getting sick someday.

    It Looks Like This: “You said you’d show the paper around if I did a good job, try to talk to my other teachers into giving me credit for their classes the semester left, so I tried to put some math and science and stuff in for them.”

    Rewrite: I put stuff from my other classes in here so I can get credit for it.

    This Is Not Your City: “Nika’s room is a glorious mess, alive with her daughter’s things, the smell of her perfume Daria suspects she stole, the floor shining with the glitter Nika glues to her eyelids with Vaseline.”

    Rewrite: Daria walks into Nika’s room and it reminds her of her daughter.

    In the Gulf of Aden: “He’s wearing socks and sandals and every so often he tilts his rear to the side and farts quietly like he thinks I won’t notice.”

    Rewrite: Your father is farts a lot.

    4.Why and how did you decide to write in the present tense and the third person point of view?

  7. 1.) Although I understand the concept of rewrites and the intentions to make them accessible to readers, I feel like there are great issues with this. First and foremost - we're taking away the challenge of language from our readers. I feel like rewrites are almost a "dumbing down" of novels or stories. There are plenty of resources online nowadays for readers to look up summaries of books and plenty of ways to learn about the book one is reading. Readers could read through the original and find additional resources in order to help - what better way to learn material then to work with it first hand? I don't know if I'm just in a bad mood today, but I feel like this alternative is handing readers the book on a silver platter. Not only this, but I think the beauty of novels, like The Great Gatsby, are not only just "stories", but they are the work of authors. I would be devastated if I had written something as eloquent as those two paragraphs and editors replaced it with one sentence that showed now reflection of my ability as a writer. I think it is important to stay true to originals so we can appreciate the work of the author as well. Simplifying the work of authors is like when Robin Thicke took Beethoven's 5th Symphony and used part of it in his contemporary pop song "When I get You Alone." The listeners get Beethoven's most popular points in the song, but nothing close to the original masterpiece - and contemporary listeners who don't know their musical history, relate that song to Robin Thicke. Not Beethoven. It's just deceiving. (280)

    2.) Horrocks, Henley, Connell, Bakopoulos, Perrotta

    3.) Zolaria: "I won't know how to tell him that I am still bracing for a day when Sophie complains of a headache that turns out to be something more, when Madison reels dizzily in gym class and the teacher sends her home with a concerned note. When a doctor has something to tell me he asks me to sit down to hear."
    Rewrite: "I won't know how to tell him I'm scared our daughters will get sick."

    It Looks Like This: "I wonder if she'd have some suggestion, something I should say to my mom next, about God, or about Him having a plan, or about how things turn out okay in the end, or about not fighting so hard. I think of what Elsa could say to me, and I want to hear it from her, even if He doesn't, and things won't, and what else does my mom have left to do?"
    Rewrite: "Even if things wouldn't be okay, I wonder if Elsa had something I could say to my mom about God."

    This is not Your City: "Her ears know he is a stranger, and if he spoke while he touched her, her skin would know it, her bones would know it, her sex would know that she has agreed to spend her life in a stranger's bed."
    Rewrite: "Her body told her the man in her bed was a stranger."

    In the Gulf of Aden: "He wondered if that was what Lucinda would have said, if she would have meant it. If he had known, he would not have wanted his son, this particular son. He knew this about himself, and thought that if he could ask Lucinda how she felt he would know a great deal more about her, about her long, mysterious days at home."
    Rewrite: "He wondered if Lucinda would have wanted this child had she known of his condition and if it would help him understand her."

    4.) What gave you the idea to insert photographs and specifically say "this is my sister" or "her hands look like this:"? It seems a lot more casual and actually made me, at least, unsure if I liked it or not - simply because its so out of the ordinary.

  8. 1. I find word choice extremely important. Those two passages of The Great Gatsby both convey the same action, but they don't mean the same thing. It's impossible to rewrite something and have it mean the same thing. I've never read The Great Gatsby, but I can say definitively that I would not enjoy the rewrite as much as the original. How a book is written is just as important to me as what is being written about. One of my favorite books (The Chosen by Chaim Potok)has almost zero plot. But I keep rereading it because the writing is just so good. It's a work of art rather than just another novel. Of course, a novel doesn't need flowery language to be good. I also love James Patterson, and his writing is extremely stripped down. It all has to do with the tone and character of the novel. If you start to change the words, you change what the novel is. You can't write the same novel using different words.
    I personally have struggled all semester putting scene over sentence. If I don't think a sentence is working, I can't move on to the next one. Because how I write that first line will affect how I write the next one. Even though it's supposed to be quantity over quality, I am not content with what I write until it has a certain level of sentence quality. I tend to rewrite too much as I'm writing because something just doesn't feel right. I feel that the scene can't be right if the sentences aren't right. Each sentence adds to the impact of the scene.

    2. Connell, Horrocks, Henley, Bakopoulus, Perrotta

    3.Zolaria - "We are riding our space dolphins, and either we can breathe the water of Zolaria or we are no longer breathing and it is July and we are a miraculous age and we are ten."
    Rewrite - In the end, we live in the present we created or in the past.

    It Looks Like This - "From far away, it wouldn't look like anything, it'd just look like this:"
    Rewrite - From far away, it would be blank.

    This is Not Your City - "It has swallowed the woman who asked, how was school today? - and worse, the silence has swallowed the daughter who sometimes answered her."
    Rewrite - The silence had take her already-limited communication with her daughter.

    In the Gulf - "She was going to die, after all, and did not want anyone to see these postcards, to read them or touch them or feel they knew then something about her, about the boy she meant to send them to.
    Rewrite - She was going to die and didn't want anyone to read what she wrote to her son.

    4. What are some difficulties you've found transitioning into writing a novel after having mainly done short stories?

  9. 1. While I do think that the original passage from The Great Gatsby is a bit flowery, I don’t necessarily think the rewrite is better. I understand that the rewrite is for younger readers, but depending on how young they are going for, it could just be detrimental to the story. More happens in the original passage than in the rewrite. While it does get a bit overly-descriptive and some of it seems like the author is just writing it to meet a word limit requirement, the original passage still hold some important descriptive information and characteristics that I feel the story needs. I do think that sentences and language are very important in fiction writing, but I also think there is a fine line between beautiful sentences and something that is so lyrically challenging you don’t even know what the story was. There is a way to get a great story across using well-crafted sentences of beautiful language, but in the end the story is what you want to convey, not that you managed to write 200 pages of gorgeous-sounding fluff. I think the language also needs to remain true to the story and the characters involved. It is pointless to write a story about a 21st century farm using Shakespearean language and phrasing. While I do enjoy reading stories with well-crafted sentences, the term “lyrically challenging” sounds to me like something with so much creative language tricks that you have to interpret each sentence just to piece a story together. So while yes, sentences are important, they still need to add to the overall story.
    2. I think Horrocks and Connell pay the most attention to sentences and language. It seems like each sentence was crafted one after the other so that they all went well together, yet are each impressive on their own. Then Bakopoulos, Henley and Perrotta.
    3. Zolaria: We walk our bikes through the forest, the sound of the freeway to our left and a creek to our right, a symmetrical hum. – We heard the freeway and the creeks while we walked through the forest.

    It Looks Like This: You’ve got a skinny little heart inside. – You’re just cold.

    This is Not Your City: Daria tells him that she has seen Matti a few times, that she remembers a boy like a great gold mastiff, giant and eager and mysteriously happy. – Daria says she’s seen him a few times, and that he seems like a happy kid.

    In the Gulf of Aden…: Wilbur and Lucinda Voorhuis were both fifty-five, and while Wil’s round face carried the number better than his wife’s, Lucinda often wore sleeveless dresses that showed off the long, firm muscles of her arms. – Wilbur and Lucinda were both fifty-five, despite the fact that his face and her body both looked younger.

    4. I would like to ask Horrock’s how she decided to write about all of her subject matter. Some of the topics seemed so different that I don’t know how one person thinks to write about it all.

  10. Fitzgerald put those original sentences in for a reason, therefore taking a writer’s vivid words and images and turning them into a “telling” phrase is neurotic. If younger readers cannot understand Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, change the audience level, not the words of the story. Take Gatsby out of high school and put it in college. Part of the reason we consider The Great Gatsby and other novels of classic literature is their ability to express a scene in such a way that you, the reader, are right there with the characters. The job of a writer is to transport the reader to the world of their story, and what Margaret Tarner did was strip this well loved novel of its descriptive quality—telling, not showing—a horrible thing to do.

    Sentences are vital to build the language of a story. Each sentence is a small piece of craft adding to the overall art of a novel, short story, essay, etc. As a fiction writer, it terrifies me to think about someone dumbing down my work. If I eventually produce something wonderful and someone else decides it’s too great for a certain audience to read, I would be devastated and my fans would be heartbroken as well. As readers, we fall in love with a story not by just the imagination behind it, but by the language used to tell it, to express it.

    Once I became an English major I found how beautiful words and story are. When I was younger, I just wanted the story; I never noticed the language of the sentences. But now, after going to college I would much rather prefer books that are lyrically challenging, written with beauty and at the same time clarity. I want to expand my mind, not leave myself in an ignorant state. Writing isn’t hard; it’s what you notice in the world around you and how you manage to find a way to put those thoughts on paper while evoking a new world with new beings. That’s why I think learning scene over sentence has been valuable for this class. Once a writer gets the thoughts down on the page, making them as detail as possible, the overall work will come together as editing takes place.

    Most attentive to least attentive:
    1. Russell Banks “The Sweet Hereafter”
    2. Dean Bakopoulos “Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon”
    3. Caitlin Horrocks “This Is Not Your City”
    4. Patricia Henley “Other Heartbreaks”
    5. Tom Perrotta “Election”

    I am barefoot and we are so timid this sticker foils our plan until Hanna takes of her left shoe and gives it to me.
    I have no shoes on and we are afraid because of the sign, but then Hanna shares her shoe with me so we will both have a least one shoe on.

    It Looks Like This:
    Everybody’s got it coming out of their ears this time of year and giving it to someone just makes it look like you’re trying to get rid of it.
    Everybody has produced zucchini and giving it to someone shows I have too much.

    This Is Not Your City:
    Daria tells him that she has seen Matti a few times, that she remembers a boy like a great gold mastiff, giant and eager and mysteriously happy.
    Daria tells him she’s seen Nika’s boyfriend some, a big boy always happy.

    In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui:
    They had woken an hour earlier to a sound low and piercing, a painful boom that rattled the room.
    They woke up early to a loud sound.

    Question for Horrocks:
    When you begin writing, do you plan out your ideas like an outline or do you just start typing and see where your mind takes you?

  11. 1) I don't like the rewriting of The Great Gatsby at all. I think that the language that any writer uses is completely intentional and shouldn't be changed to entice readers. Simplifying and watering-down flowery language isn't an answer to the lack of adolescent interest in literature. If the reader thinks that the original is excessively flowery that is their own opinion, and forming opinions should be any reader's goal, opposed to changing literature to fit popular interests. I know that I am more of a structural, story-building writer. When I write sentences I'm not trying to think of beautiful or profound things to say. But the most interesting thing about being a writer is that none of us are the same, because no readers are the same. Learning fundamentals and common tools is about spreading literary diversity across mediums, forms, and genres. Language doesn't matter to me very much, although I do enjoy lyrically challenging books. Sentence-level beauty feels good to read, but without an equally beautiful story I lose interest. I think that beauty and clarity are different things, however. It's easy to get lost in finding the perfect words and end up confusing yourself and the reader. It's more rewarding for me if I can write a story that immerses the reader and leaves them satisfied at the end. This class has been challenging and engaging because of it's macro focus. I hate workshops and the often meaningless, polite feedback in other creative writing courses. I want to improve as a writer and that can only come from critical feedback and consistent practice writing.

    2) Bakupoulos and Connell seem the most interested in line-by-line language. I enjoyed their writing a lot, but I didn't think that the plot of Please Come Back From The Moon was done very well. In the larger understanding of storytelling as a whole the language that we use is still just a tool.

    3) Zolaria: We are riding our space dolphins, and either we can breathe the water of Zolaria or we are no longer breathing and it is July and we are a miraculous age and we are ten.
    Rewrite – It is July and we are ten.
    It Looks Like This: We knew it was coming, with my mom, and I said she should pick upstairs or downstairs, so we'd be ready when she couldn't go between anymore.
    Rewrite – We knew mom would die so she had to stay on one level of the house.
    This Is Not Your City: She recognizes this much, his apology, and she realizes it is a word that Finnish people never speak aloud.
    Rewrite – She knows that Finnish people just don't ever apologize never.
    In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui: In Tangier they were childless.
    Rewrite: They lived in Tangier and they did not have any children at all.

    4) How do you decide from which perspective to write for which story? Is it usually clear from how the story works or do you spend time trying different ways until it feels right?

  12. 1. I like both versions of the text. In some novels it is nice to read language that is more descriptive and expressive, at other times I prefer succinctness. An entire book of flowery language is too much for me and reminiscent of reading nineteenth century literature. So, in other words, I like both versions of the Gatsby writing. Probably I find the second version a bit sterile, but since I can't remember what went round it I hesitate to make that my official choice. A succinct sentence within other more descriptive, or flowery passages it good for breaking things up and keeping it from getting too boring.

    I think word choice and sentence structure is crucial to helping readers to have a certain "experience," of a work, to getting across specific ideas.

    I suppose I do spend quite a bit of time, during a writing session, looking for just the right words or sentences to express what I want to convey.

    2. Horrocks, Henley, Bacapolous, Connell, Perotta.

    3. Zolaria: "In the fifth grade Hanna and I doomed ourselves." (Hanna and I really messed up bad in the style department, at the beginning of fifth grade.)

    "It seems unfair, that a kingdom we inventede should have its own mysteries, its unvanquisable foes." -this speaks to me of writing itself- (Not fair something we invented should have a life of its own.)

    It Looks Like This: "So the next time she had a friend take her, and I found out anyway, which goes to show I was right all along." (So next time she tried to hide it from me, but of course I found out.)

    This is Not Your City: "She heats the sauna hotter than she ever has before and dumps water on the rocks until sweat runs into her eyes and they hurt so bacly it's okay if she cries." (She sits in the sauna and cries.)

    In The Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui: "She was wearing white linen against a blue sky, the sand-colored pyramids of Giza ranged behind her." (She was wearing white linen and standing in front of the pyramids at Giza.)

    Questin for Caitlin Horrocks: Do you map out your stories ahead of time? Or do you "pantze" it? Are some of these stories autobiographical? (nonfiction fiction)

  13. I've been printing out and reading all of Monday's 407er responses. You all have given me lots of things to think about in terms of language and language choice! I've been compiling quotes from all of you that I found especially poignant, so we'll be looking over some of those tonight. I'll also have the tallies for the "most attentive" to "least attentive" to language prompt!

  14. 1.) I don't think we should be looking at this as question to the point of is the change good or not. Any change from the original loses something from the author. The real question I think is if the quality is dependent on the language, and I would say it doesn't. However, I feel instinctively that the second sentence needs a lot more going on. Perhaps if it was two paragraphs turned into two or three sentences my decision would be harder.

    I personally go to books for good characters and plots. If a book manages to throw in good language, that's all the better, but it's not essential at all to me.

    The quantity over quality approach to this class has not bothered me. I quite enjoy not having to worry about my language, and it helps me get it all out there rather than spend an hour perfecting a page, a terrible habit that I need to break.

    2.) Connell, Horrocks, Bakopoulos, Henley, and Perrotta.

    3.) Here we go:

    We walk our bikes through the forest, the sound of the freeway to our left and a creek to our right, a symmetrical hum.

    We carry our bikes into the forest, listening to cars on the freeway and running water from the creek.

    It Looks Like This:
    You said you’d show the paper around if I did a good job, try to talk to my other teachers into giving me credit for their classes the semester left, so I tried to put some math and science and stuff in for them.

    You told me you'd show it to the other teachers so I could get extra credit, so I added math and science for them.

    This is not Your City:
    Nika’s room is a glorious mess, alive with her daughter’s things, the smell of her perfume Daria suspects she stole, the floor shining with the glitter Nika glues to her eyelids with Vaseline.

    Nika's room is a mess with glitter and smells like perfume.

    Gulf of Aden:
    That still seemed the wrong thing to say, and Wil eased out of the chair to bring them a feast of leftover food, gummy worms, pretzels, two green apples and a bag of chalky dinner mints.

    It felt bad to say that, and Wil got out of his chair to bring a strange meal of food from the other night, candy, pretzels, some apples, and a bag of mints.

    4.) How do you feel when you're looking at a first draft?

  15. 1.) Though I do hate the idea of remaking things to appeal to a wider audience and removing the nuances of the original (books, movies, etc.), the replacement sentence isn't a terrible choice on its own. A fusion of both would have been more enjoyable for me, since Fitzgerald's version kind of goes at a slow pace, keeping details and narrative separated when they would have been perfectly fine together, if I am making any sense. With that said, I do like books with a good balance of being lyrical and straightforward. The extreme, for me, would be something like Shakespeare, which requires footnotes longer than each page of the script, whereas the lowest would be something like The Hunger Games, which told a good story but with little lyrical value, in my opinion. I worry about having sentence-level beauty, because I feel my story won't stand apart from the rest or just appear dull. Doing quantity over quality has been rather easy for me in class, as I don't have to worry about how beautiful the sentences are, but afterwards, the revising process, has me slightly scared...

    2.) I'd rank them Horrocks, Bakopoulos, Henley, Perrotta, and Connell

    3.) Zolaria - Original: The hospital will remind me of a shopping mall, places to buy medicine and gifts and food, departments for having babies and looking after babies and looking after children and fixing all the different things that can go wrong with them.
    Change: The hospital was a big place with a lot of functions.

    It Looks Like This - Original: It was a nice day, sunny but not too hot, so it didn't feel strange that Elsa didn't invite me inside the house. Change: It was hot, but Elsa didn't let me in the house.

    This is Not Your City - Original: Nika looks for a moment as if she is trying to figure out who the other family is, who besides Matti's parents pick berries in their backyard and laugh together at the same television shows. Change: Nika doesn't know who the other family is.

    In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui - Original: It was the first real vacation they'd taken since the birth, and of course everyone had asked what they were doing with Aaron, what arrangements they'd made, as if he were mail to be picked up or a plant to be watered. Change: For their first vacation, people asked what they did with Aaron.

    4.) How was it to work on stories through so many different tenses (past, present, future), and did you ever have trouble keeping the tenses straight while working on the stories?

    -Tyler Trosper

  16. 1.The original text obviously has more attention to detail and focus on language. Through readings such as this, we are given more of a vivid picture of the situation presented. Of course, overwriting is a problem that can occur quite easily. I myself often find myself guilty of overwriting particular scenes. Reading passages such as this can be rewarding to some, and a burden to others. I think personal taste is an important part for this question. It is easy for a writer to get too caught up with the slight details before losing the story. These long descriptive passages can pull a reader out and disrupt the flow of the story. Personally, I do not agree with the reasons the editors chose to rewrite Fitzgerald's work. Dumbing down a book simply to make it more accessible to younger readers does not seem like an appropriate treatment of a piece. If the editors of the world had not dumbed down so much work of great potential, perhaps I would know how to read by now and our generation would know how to talk!

    2.Henley, Horrocks, Connell, Bakopoulus, Perrotta

    3. Zolaria-She cedes the lake to me, accepts the smaller for her kingdom, and I try to tell my father that night over carryout Chinese what I am only beginning to understand myself, that the way in which he loves me is not quite the way I wish he would.
    After she lets me take the bigger lake, I tell my father I wish he loved me more.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that Elsa won't let us be friends after all, and that's one more think that makes me sad so then I stop thinking about it.
    Elsa doesn't want to be my friend, and I'm sad.

    Sex is a language they can pretend to have in common; he grunts, he waits for her to sigh, and they can imagine that they understand each other.
    When they have sex, they speak the same.

    I've realized you're a mystery, she wanted to say.
    She didn't know him.

    4.How did the idea to write a book in this style come to you? Did you have short stories first, or an idea to have these stories match a theme?

  17. I think this rewriting of Gatsby is a shame. I loved the first draft, it had so much life in it and took you into the story a lot more than the revision. While it took up some more space, I think it was written well enough that the space was well used. As a fiction writer, I really rely on language as a vehicle for my story. Language plays a big part in setting the tone of the story, and is something you can immediately feel before you understand the characters or the plot. Language really matters to me, and I try to pay special attention to how my words sound together rather than just what they say. I prefer books that are lyrically challenging, but not too challenging. You can overuse lyrical language as well, and the readers might not take the time and effort to understand the beauty of it. Sometimes, small simple sentences can be just as beautiful as long, flowery sentences as long as the words matter. The words have to transport you somewhere, or make you feel a specific feeling. If that simple sentence does not do that, then it loses its punch. The focus on quantity over quality has been fine with me, because that is what I have the most trouble with. I write a lot of poetry and can find it in me to write something lyrical, but spitting it all out on a page and keeping up the word count is something I struggle with. So I definitely enjoy the quantity over quality aspect, because I can still write quality sentences to fill up the quantity.

    Of all the books we’ve read so far, I would have to rate them as: Horrocks, Bakopoulos, Perrotta, Connell, and then Henley.

    Zolaria: We are riding our space dolphins, and either we can breathe the water of Zolaria or we are no longer breathing and it is July and we are a miraculous age and we are ten.
    Rewrite: We are riding our space dolphins and we can either breathe Zolaria’s water or die, and we are ten-years-old in July.
    The original is obviously much better because it is much more expansive and lyrical. It is a run-on sentence but I think there are times that run-ons can give great opportunity for beautiful sentences like this.
    It Looks Like This: “My heart’s bigger than yours,” she said. “You’ve got a skinny little heart inside.”
    Rewrite: “I have a bigger heart than you, yours is small.”
    I like how she broke up the quote, which made me think there was a pause in thought, and the fact that she said ‘you’ve got a skinny little heart inside’ is great because you don’t think of hearts as being skinny.

    This is Not Your City: My heart is like a bird that is ready to zoom up to the sky.
    Rewrite: My heart flies up to the sky.
    The simile and the verb “zoom” make this sentence so much better.
    In The Gulf of Aden: They pondered the appropriate footwear for a hostage situation. (I chose this sentence because where else do you see a sentence like this?)
    Rewrite: They thought about what shoes they should wear for being in a hostage situation.
    The original is obviously much more poignant, as she was able to convey a ridiculous situation by a ridiculous thought.

    How many times do you rewrite sentences to make them more powerful, more lyrical? Do you find yourself thinking in lyrical language, or do you write the bones of the sentence and then go back to make them more interesting?

  18. 1. I believe that both versions were good enough. I think it just depends on the author/editors and how they wanted the book to be. In the first paragraph, the language was very detailed on where everything was and how the two women related into the room from the window. In general, I believe that some sentences matter, not every single one. When an important sentence comes around, the author will make sure that it's polished and stands out for the reader.

    2. Hanley, Connel, Perotta, Horricks, and Bakopoulos

    3. "I will tell her that I'm pagan, that I make burnt offerings to forest demons in the Bird Hills Nature Preserve."- Zolaria. Rewritten: "I pretend to tell people that I'm a pagan that worship forest demons at a bird preserve."

    It looks like this-"You said you wanted to make this easy for me, that i had to do was write a long paper about my life, about my mom and my sister and my friends, about where i live and what i do, and you'd give me credit for completing your English class". rewritten: "Teacher told me to write about my life for English class, I said fuck ya."

    This is Not your city-"Daria wonders if her body is still hot enough to scald him, wonders what damage she could do if she reached for him now" rewritten: "Daria's hatred wants to reach for him and do damage"

    In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Gaurdafui-"Lucinda had waited for Wil to catch on, to feel the blush of his own embarrassment, but eight months in, Aaron still in intensive care, Lucinda on an indefinite leave of absence from her job with an insurance firm, she finally asked him to stop" rewrittened: "Lucinda asked Wil to stop after eight months while Aaron still rested i intensive care"

    4. Question: How do make your writing style your own without changing how you want to write?

  19. I'm really pleased with the responses so far. To give you a sense of how I'd "grade" or assess them, I think that those who dwelled on or ranted about "dumbing down" books like Gatsby are missing the point of the question. I merely used that passage and the revision to illustrate an example of writing that's VERY attentive to language and writing that's LESS attentive. THAT'S what you're supposed to be composing 250-750 words about. A few of you are WAY on the short side there (and it's obvious who you are). I'd say that all of these thus far are "check" answers, perfect adequate, and that the following are "plus" answers: Ryn, Sarah C., Phoebe, Jordan, Tyler.

    This article in the New York Times yesterday articulates one reason why Langauge really does matter.


    "Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life."

  20. 1.) It's been several years since I've read Gatsby, I can't really vouch for how lyrical the sentences got. But, I think that the way it is written is the way the author intended it to be written. Changing the language of the story is changing the story. The revision leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As for my personal reading preferences, I don't pay too much attention to the language. I place the emphasis on the narrative...which I guess means I don't like my books too flowery, because I think it gets in the way of plot. As a writer, I don't focus much on my sentence quality either. I just sort of write what feels natural. Sometimes that's a bit more lyrical, sometimes it's a bit plain. I think I have a pretty good instinct about it.


    We are narrow and quick and we still fit in all our hiding places, the sun-wet hollows and the flowers in pink and purple and turquoise, all the damp colors of girlhood.

    We have children's bodies that still fit in our old hiding places.

    It Looks Like This
    In the car she talks about how in the autumn her hands are quick with a certain light, how they shake with the work inside them, and the only way she’s found to calm them is to choose colors, cut pieces, load stitches on the needle.

    In the car she talks about how during the fall she gets an urging to quilt.

    This is Not Your City
    Sex is a language they can pretend to have in common; he grunts, he waits for her to sigh, and they can imagine that they understand each other.

    Sex makes her feel closer to her husband.

    In the Gulf of Aden
    The sea was quiet, the showy sparkle of the sunset giving way to darker blue and black, faint slashes of light on the swells rather than a field of sequins.

    The sun was setting over the sea.

    4.) How much planning do you normally put into a story before you begin writing? How much of it is fleshed out/planned before you start?

  21. 1.) I think the rewrite of The Great Gatsby was a complete failure. I can recall reading it for the first time when I was twelve, and then again when I was fourteen and wondering what the big deal was. I didn’t understand why it was a classic. It’s much easier to see in the original text which I prefer, however I think the book would’ve been better served if the original text had met somewhere in the middle with the rewrite. I like experiencing the scene and follwing along with it rather than it just being handed to me, but I think an abundance of that type of language and sentence structure will turn off the average reader. If the story is good enough, I don’t think that you need to worry too much about the language. Of course you should pay attention to it and care about whether or not you sound educated, but I think a lot of writers make the mistake of paying too much attention to language and wind up sounding arrogant. Let me preface this next statement by saying that I don’t think the average reader is uninteligent, but sometimes people are in a hurry and/or they’re just reading for enjoyment, to be taken into the story and out of their everyday lives. When that is the case, the reader doesn’t want to take the time to stop and think about a sentence or the vocabulary choices that were made and what they really mea; he or she just wants to experience the story. I think more often than not, that is the case and therefore, I do not linger too long on the lyricism of my writing.
    As a reader, I do care somewhat about language which makes me care somewhat about it when I write, but that’s only because a lack of lyricism in writing makes the reader have to linger just as long as an overdone sentence. If the writing isn’t intelligent, it won’t even seem coherent to the reader and they will be stuck on it. Thus far, I haven’t focused at all on language. I am more concerned with getting the entire story on paper and then revisiting language during the rewrite/editing process. Still, clarity is a big concern, but not elegance.

    1 – Caitlin Horrocks, This is Not Your City: Stories,
    2 – Patricia Henley, Other Heartbreaks: Stories
    3 – Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge
    4 – Russell Banks, The Sweet Hereafter
    5 – Dean Bakopolous, Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon
    6 – Tom Perrotta, Election

    3.) “Zolaria” –
    “The Little and Big Sister Lakes are the eastern edge of what we name Zolaria that summer, simply for the sound of it, the exotic “Z” and the trailing vowels like a mvoie star’s name.”
    Rewrite: “That summer, we named a place Zolaria because we liked the sound of it and thought the “Z” was exotic like a movie star; there were two lakes on the east side of it called the Little and Big Sister Lakes.”

    “It Looks Like This” –
    “The look reminded me of how as a kid all the Amish on market days made me sad, because you could see how easily they smiled at each other but never at you, and I didn’t understand what would be so wrong with me that I couldn’t be smiled at.”
    Rewrite: “The look reminded me of being a sad kid when the Amish would smile at each other and not me, like something was wrong with me.”

    “This is Not Your City” –
    “Paavo is sitting on the bed watching television, duvet over his legs, his chest bare.”
    Rewrite: “Paavo is watching TV in bed, barechested, legs covered.”

    “In the Gulf of Aden, Pas the Cape of Guardafui” –
    “Wil convinced Lucinda to take a camel ride on the Western Plateau and snapped picture after picture while she swayed uncertainly on the animal’s hump.”
    Rewrite: “After convincing her to ride the camel, Will took a bunch of pictures of Lucinda looking nervous on it’s hump.”

    4.) Question for Horrocks: How many drafts do you average for one short story before you feel like it’s ready to be shared?

  22. 1.In my own opinion I would say that the original passage is much more eloquent than the rewrite. Maybe that stems from my own love of “flowery” language, and my need for extra details in order to truly immerse myself in a story. As a fiction writer myself, I feel that sometimes a short sentence that is “to the point” is appropriate. But I also feel that at times, a longer more descriptive passage, could work just the same. For the most part, I have realized throughout this class that although I usually preferred to make sure the writing was of a better quality before allowing anyone else to read it, I now know that sometimes a story can progress better when the focus is quantity, instead of quality. I have been able to write so much more information, scenes, and dialogue this semester, than I normally would have in the past, because I always used to focus on how my words would sound to a reader, and not about expanding on the story itself. By allowing myself to simply write and get more of the story out, I have realized that it is easier to go back and edit and “fluff” it out after the initial content has already been written. As for what books I prefer I guess it really just depends on the mood I am in at the time I pick up a book, sometimes I prefer a long winded beautifully crafter novel, and sometimes I just want a book that I can pick up and escape into that’s an “easy reader” which I can fly right through until the ending. Both forms of language and writing have their own merits; it just depends on the story and the situation as to what works best to express the message.

    2.I would rank them from most attentive to least attentive as follows:

    a.This is not your City:
    “You can’t even see your body in these. Who will be interested? They’ll think you’re fat and trying to hide it.”
    Rewrite: Show more skin, we want them to like you.
    b.Gulf of Aden:
    “She ripped the postcards in half, one by one, and scattered them; they fluttered and fell, caught by railings and walls of balconies below, by updrafts and breezes.”
    Rewrite: She tore up the postcards, and threw them overboard.
    “We are riding our space dolphins, and either we can breathe the water of Zolaria or we are no longer breathing and it is July and we are a miraculous age and we are ten.”
    Rewrite: Once we die, we are free, of everything.
    d.It looks like this:
    “From far away, it wouldn’t look like anything, it’d just look like this:”
    Rewrite: The pictures can’t be seen, so it’s a secret quilt.

    4.What was the inspiration behind “It looks like this”, because I just love the style in which it was written?

  23. 1. Without digressing to much, let me preface that I have a very specific opinion about The Great Gatsby in regards to its language. Personally, I believe that the novel rather literally cannot be changed. Part of what makes the novel so “perfect,” in my opinion, is its precise use of language. Removing or changing even just a few words would alter the novel for the worse. This is part of what makes Fitzgerald so ever-lasting. This said, I feel very poorly about the rewriting of The Great Gatsby. I don’t believe that the novel is excessively flowery at all. Quite the opposite. I believe that the novel is constructed with such precision that removing language would effectively remove quality. I’m not sure there is any fat to trim. To me, one of the most beautiful aspects to writing is the language. The degree of manipulation which can be added or taken away from a narrative based in language alone is staggering. Language is very important to me. After the narrative itself, I believe language harbors the most importance. It has the capacity to alter or define tone, mood, setting, characterization, emotion, and on and on. I’m tepid to answer a question which asks if I prefer a book which is more lyrically challenging or not because if I answer no, it’s as though I’m rejecting the quality or my aesthetic to a challenging read. I believe that through the author and her language, a precise use of language is utilized via which the narrative is able to take on whole new perspectives and qualities. To answer the question, though, my aesthetic tends to seek those texts which are less “hefty” in their use of language. I think that incredible amounts of information can be contained in very simple, minimalist language. In the end, and rather unfortunately, it’s up to the ability or author to convey this via minimal language. Due to this, I am very concerned with sentence level beauty and clarity. If my personal goal is to encapsulate incredibly precise mechanics within as few, as-appropriate-as-possible words as I can manage, then of course I’m concerned with my language even at the sentence-level. To finish, while I have very adamant stances regarding my aesthetic as it relates to language, it wasn’t any more or less difficult to focus on the bigger picture in this class. I’ve begun to realize that it really might be more beneficial to pen in excess. Trimming can occur later.
    2. Henley // Horrocks // Connell // Bakapoulos // Perrotta

  24. 3. “Z:” “Hanna’s parents still live together and their house feels friendlier than mine.” I’m most intrigued with the beginning clause. I was so struck with the immence amount of implicit information and emotion and tone Horrocks was able to cram into, “still live together.” Not married. Not happy. Not even depressed. Just, “still live together.” Rewrite: “I’m jealous because Hanna’s family seems happier than mine.”
    “ILLT:” “Since I mentioned them, here is a chicken.” I’m dead serious. This sentence so well encapsulates the narrator’s awkwardness and lack of observable or institutionalized education. In my opinion (and in context) this sentence perfectly embodies the piece as told through the narrator. I’m also not sure how to rewrite this considering it really is already kind of “bad.” My rewrite will seem written up, which will make it seem out of place in relation to the rest of the narrative. Rewrite: “…I have marks all up and down my legs. Their awkward bobbing walk and aggression scares me when I have to feed them or else they will die. I want them to die, but still every morning before the sun comes up, I feed them, and every morning they attack.”
    “TINYC:” “Sex is a language they can pretend to have in common; he grunts, he waits for her to sigh, and they can imagine that they understand each other.” Language is very obviously a theme in this story and I appreciate the narrator’s acknowledgement of the various mediums of language outside of the spoken or written word. Even in something as primal as sex, there is miscommunication, there is lying, there is foreign. Rewrite: She pretended to by satisfied during sex and he believed her.
    “ITGOA,PTCOG:” “Wil and Lucinda dressed with a faint sense of excitement.” The passage goes on to describe the couple readying themselves with a sense of anticipation for a hostage situation. This is such an absurd and really hilarious passage which so precisely describes the couple’s first world ignorance. Rewrite:
    “Wil and Lucinda did not understand the dangers of a potential hostage situation and so dressed normally.”
    4. What is your inspiration, your muse? Is it other authors? Your life? Others’ lives? Experiences you wish you had or imagine one day having? Etc?
    Also, “This is Not Your City” is set and encompasses foreign cultures. Was it difficult to write of these and why did you choose them?

  25. If I had to choose, I honestly like the rewrite better, but I think the best option would be a balance between the two. I enjoyed the description in the original, but towards the end of the first paragraph, it started to get a little excessive. By the end of the second paragraph, I was getting frustrated. On the other hand, with the rewrite, you get absolutely no information about the setting. I think you need to write somewhere in between, where you include flowery description, but not so much that it crowds out the action. I think language is pretty important. More than once I’ve picked up a book that sounded interesting, but the voice was in such discord with my own that I couldn’t stand to read it. On the other hand, I’ve picked up books with such great language use that I couldn’t stand to stop turning the pages, even when the subject matter didn’t particularly intrigue me. I wouldn’t say I like books that are “lyrically challenging,” though. I don’t think language should challenge us, I think it should engage us. I think I’m fairly focused on sentence-level beauty, although I sometimes worry about the clarity of what I write, and in recent times, I’ve been working hard to ignore sentence in favour of story, as per the advice of my teachers. Doing so has been a bit of a challenge, but I think it’ll be worth it. I don’t want to spend eight years writing a novel when I can do work that’s just as good in two with this different technique.

    1.This Is Not Your City
    3.The Sweet Hereafter
    4.Mrs. Bridge
    5.Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon

    1.“We are riding our space dolphins, and either we can breathe the water of Zolaria or we are no longer breathing and it is July and we are a miraculous age and we are ten.”
    We rode our space dolphins and we could breathe underwater or else we would die when we were ten.
    2.“Also, maybe, that quilting takes a lot of geometry, and that I still remember that the Pythagorean Theorem goes like this:”
    Also, I need a lot of geometry to quilt. Also, I still remember the Pythagorean Theorem.

    How long do you spend working on a single story?

  26. 1. When I think of the novel The Great Gastby the first thing that I remember is the way that book was written. I remember how every scene was a panoramic of detail to describe what was going on. Reading that statement and then the newly worded ending of The Great Gatsby I come up with only one response, why bother? In the book one of the reason’s why people are drawn into the world is because of the carefully crafted language. For instance, what if instead of the sign for the optomotrist being hinted at some sort of metaphor for an all seeing eye judging the characters. What if the sign is reduced to a background image that only serves as backdrop to the scenery and adds nothing else to the narrative? Taking out the narrative details in The Great Gatsby is removing a key component from the book. Most of those inside details that are removed from the book can speak volumes about the character’s involved. Without the choice in language you lose symbolism, visual detail, and just overall what the author intented to say. I have no doubt in my mind the Fitzgerald meticulously analyzed his entire story and found what did and didn’t work. To diminish this work down to simply, “Wind blew through the room until Tom closed the window” is just boring. It doesn’t draw us into the world, and it most certainly doesn’t even come close to honoring Fitzgerald’s original text.

  27. 1.
    I think with a lot of classics it is fine to adjust the language for more intermediate readers. That is how I became familiar with a lot of classic stories as I was growing up. If you showed me the paragraphs and then the sentence that is edited and I was unaware of what novel it came from, honestly, I would say just go with edited line (although I do feel that the edited line may be overly edited). I do however enjoy lyrical language in a novel but there is a fine line where it can either do the story justice or become daunting. I’ve studied poetry far more than I have fiction perhaps because I am in love with sentences and words at a rudimentary level. How they play on one another; their connotation. Some writers are able to capture this in a novel—an effect that lends itself to feel natural. Some however, feel as thought they pulled every sentence like a rubber band right before snapping.
    So far it has been incredibly difficult for me to churn words quickly and at a large scale. It has been particularly rough for me to stand back and think of my work as a map. I feel that would come easier for me after the work is produced and more apart of the revision process. But, as I said as a poet, it has been great to step into a world that is different from the craft I normally focus on and to see how the work of a novel evolves.

    Horrocks, Henley, Bakopoulos, Connel, Perrotta

    Zolaria- In seventh grade, the year Hanna will slip a note between the vents of my locker that reads “I Hate You” over and over, filling an entire notebook page, I will be 5’2” and as tall as I will ever grow.
    Hanna slipped a note in my locker in seventh grade that said “I Hate You” over and over.

    It Looks Like This- The roosters are sons-of-bitches, and that’s not what my mom says, that’s what I say, because I’m the one has to go into the yard to feed them and they’re trying to peck me to death.
    I always said the roosters are sons-of-bitches and they try to peck me to death.

    Not Your City- The heart has one word only, and however wrong or right her life might have gone it would have the one word still.
    There is only one word that heart knows, no matter what.

    Gulf of Aden- Knowledge must live in the washes of the brain, Wil decided when the doctors told them that Aaron might or might not learn to swallow.
    Aaron may never learn to swallow, the doctors told Wil, when he decided knowledge must live in the washes of the brain.

    Did you feel that you were taking a risk by including pictures in your story? What was the inspiration for that particular story?

  28. 1) I feel like the rewrite was an oversimplification of the paragraphs. The original is a bit flowery, but it also grounds the reader, giving him/her a great deal of detail to be able to envision the scene playing out before them. This is the difference between show and tell. The original passage is an outstanding example of an author showing the reader the scene, whereas the rewrite just tells the reader what’s going on without any imagination at all. For me, books don’t have to be lyrically challenging in order for me to read and enjoy them, but the author does have to give me something – they have to have the ability to use descriptive language effectively in order to draw me in and keep me grounded. However, I do enjoy books that have sentence and language variety. I cannot read books that use the same sentence structure through a majority of the book, because before long I will notice the sentence more than what’s happening in the story. I will get irritated and eventually put the book down, sometimes without finishing it. The focus of this class has been easy for me, because I like to get the story out before I start going back to fix problems like language or sentence structure variety. From previous creative writing classes, I have been taught to be very aware of sentence structure variety when writing and reading, so I can fix that sometimes when I write my book for this class, and outside of class.
    2) I feel that Henley had a very keen eye for language when she was she was writing. Then, I feel that Perotta comes in second because he had to write from five different points of view, therefore he had to be rather attentive to language in order to create those separate voices. Third I think would be Connell, who also had to create different voices for the different points of view, but it was also set in an earlier time where the language was much different than it is today. Fourth would be Horrocks who create different characters, but I feel the voices are so much the same, that the characters begin to blend into one another. Finally, the least attentive I believe would be Bakopoulos, whose story was told from one small-town character’s point of view and therefore it wasn’t really a requirement to have big, flowery language.
    3) In “Zolaria,” the speaker writes, “We have been sprung from our backyards, from the neighborhood park, from the invisible borders that rationed all our other summers.” My rewrite: “It was finally summer and we are free.”
    In “It Looks Like This,” the speaker writes, “You said you’d show the paper around if I did a good job, try to talk to my other teachers into giving me credit for their classes the semester left, so I tried to put some math and science and stuff in for them.” My rewrite: I have math and science stuff in here too, because you said I’d get extra credit from my other teachers too.
    In “This is Not Your City,” the speaker writes, “The marriage is a gaping hush, an unraveling hole that cannot be darned.” My rewrite: Marriage is a big, black hole you can’t escape from.
    In “In the Gulf of Aden,” the speaker writes,” They had woken an hour earlier to a sound of low and piercing, a painful boom that rattled the room.” My rewrite: A booming sound awoke them.
    4) My question:
    Did you find the form of “This is What it Looks Like” difficult to achieve, because it was not the traditional form for a story?

  29. 1. The revision of Gatsby is a mockery of the original text. If the revision is taking multiple paragraphs of wonderful description and summing it up into simplistic single sentences, the wonder of the book is lost. I realize that the revision was intended for younger audiences, but simply by nature of being younger, children are not stupid. Yes, the original flowery description could be a little hard to muddle through, but that does not mean it should be destroyed for the sake of being more easily understood.
    The original is better because that is what the author intended it to say. The way that the author conceived his ideas and felt that they should be explained is the best way to tell the story, because it is his story.
    Language matters to me quite a bit. If the idea of a story is good, but it is bogged down in overly simplistic language or unclear wording, I will not appreciate it as much as a well-written story. If it is challenging to read, I do not appreciate it quite as much either. I believe writing to be art and the way language is treated should reflect that. Sentence level beauty and clarity are like brush strokes in a painting; they may not be as noticeable when seeing the entire work, but without that precision, the painting would not be a congruent, beautiful whole.
    Focusing on quantity over quality has not been too much of a problem for me. The more refined aspects of the beauty and clarity of sentence structure come through revision, thus the early stages are intended to be rough.

    2.) I would rate the books, in level of attention to language, as follows: Connell, Horrocks, Henley, Bakopoulos, Perrotta.

    3.) Best sentences and rewrites:
    a. Zolaria. “The hospital will remind me of a shopping mall, places to buy medicine and gifts and food, departments for having babies and looking after babies and looking after children and fixing all the different things that go wrong with them.”

    The hospital was like a mall.

    b. It Looks Like This. “The more I think about it, the more I think Elsa won’t let us be friends after all, and that’s one thing that makes me sad so then I stop thinking about it.”

    Elsa wouldn’t be my friend and I was sad.

    c. This Is Not Your City. “She will eat it, she thinks, like an old time spy, so no one can bring her bad news.”

    She decides to eat the paper.

    d. In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui. “It was the first real vacation they’d taken since birth, and of course everyone had asked what they were doing with Aaron, what arrangements they’d made, as if he were mail to be picked up or a plant to be watered.”

    They took a vacation and everyone asked about Aaron.

    4.) Question for Horrocks.
    Are your stories inspired from things that actually happened, or are they purely fiction?

  30. 1. I'd have to take the original on this one. It isn't necessarily because I deem the rewrite bad, but the original language is just more effective in my opinion. While the rewrite gets all the information out there that needs to be said, the original words it in such a way that rewriting it wouldn't do it the same justice. The flowery language adds a layer of its own to the work.

    When I work on my own writing, I notice I pay a lot more attention to word choice than I probably should at a first draft phase. It takes a considerable amount of time, but I feel once I get down a pretty decent map of what I want to say without making it sound too bland, I can build upon something I already considered halfway decent. I will sit in one spot for a good amount of time just deciding how to say what I want to say next.

    All that does for me though, aside from getting words I like on the page, is make generating all those words all the more difficult. It isn't that the words are an overbearing load. It is just my writing practices sink all the writing for the week into two separate time slots cranking out half each time.

    2. The order I'd assign would be something like: Bakopoulos, Perrotta, Horrocks, Henley, and then Connell.

    3. Here are my choices for sentences.

    Zolaria: "'Ogan Veen, Ogan Veen, His farts all smell like gasoline, His stomach's full of children's spleens, Ogan Veen, Ogan Veen,' we sing."
    A tune was composed against his name.

    It Looks Like This: "It was a nice day, sunny but not too hot, so it didn't feel strange that Elsa didn't invite me inside the house."
    Rewrite: The heat of the sun lay low enough, so it wasn't strange Elsa didn't invite me in.

    Gulf of Aden: “She ripped the postcards in half, one by one, and scattered them; they fluttered and fell, caught by railings and walls of balconies below, by updrafts and breezes.”
    Rewrite: She ripped the postcards in twos scattering them to the world below her.

    This is Not Your City: “Paavo is sitting on the bed watching television, duvet over his legs, his chest bare.”
    Rewrite: Paavo sat bare chested on the bed watching television.

    4. A seemingly fairly common question, which I feel is still one of the more important things to ask is "Why present rather than past?"

  31. I've been having a blast reading the T/TR group's responses against the M class's! I've also been tallying up the "most attentive" to "least attentive" and it's interesting to see how much the opinions are differing. We'll talk about Caitlin Horrocks' visit as well as some thoughts on In Print this year, look at some of the quotes from your posts that I found rather interesting, and tweet some stuff so Cathy can see what we're up to today. Looking forward to 2pm!