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.