Week 12 Reading Response: How-to

Let’s focus on Wood and Prose, both last week’s and this week’s readings. Disregard the assignment to read further into a prior novel.

From at least three (and ideally all five) of the following five selections, 1) choose a point that speaks to you and 2) furnish an example from fiction — your own work or somebody else’s, on or off the syllabus — that illustrates it. 3) Add one or two sentences explaining your choice — what resonated in the Wood or Prose, how the example does what it does.

Wood: Sympathy & Complexity (169-180)
Prose: Gesture (209-232)
Wood: Language (181-212)
Wood: Dialogue (213-222)
Prose: Dialogue (143-192)


Week 12 Reading Response: How-to

4 thoughts on “Week 12 Reading Response: How-to

  1. Lola Jalbert says:

    Prose: Dialogue (143-192):
    Her class assignment to eavesdrop on strangers really stuck with me. It reminded me of the dialogue in Two Serious Ladies which was just awkward enough to be notable, but not enough to be unrealistic. The dialogue in the story is almost something that could be overheard at a cafe.
    Prose: Gesture (209-232)
    Prose’s explanation of economy of gesture was interesting. It reminded me of the tiniest of details in Bright Lights, Big City that tell the reader what’s really going on in the protagonist’s life, which is the recent death of his mother and the end of his marriage. Neither of these facts are explicitly said throughout the majority of the novel but if you are reading with enough perception then these facts are fairly obvious.
    Wood: Sympathy & Complexity (169-180)
    The concept of a lifeless technique is introduced in this section, bringing to mind my own work and why I add details where I do. When the protagonist in Yellow, for example, spirals out of control I turned to alcohol as a device for showing that. The reason for doing that was less that it would add to the story and more that it is a telling detail that I have learned from other media sources. When a person in a movie turns to alcohol in a stressful situation it is a detail for the viewer to notice and draw a conclusion about. In doing this, many of my details in my stories (especially details related to emotional breakdowns and experiences) become lifeless and/or cliché.


  2. Irina says:

    Wood: Sympathy & Complexity (169-180)
    Nagel concludes that a human cannot change places with a bat, that imaginative transfer on the part of a human is impossible: ‘Insofar as I can imagine this (which is not very far), it tells me only what it would be like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to a bat.’
    I’ve found this point very relevant for my own writing. I’m usually trying to step out of my head and body and describe the world from a different perspective. I’ve realized that thus far, I’ve been only putting myself in someone else’s shoes but I was still hoding on to who I am. If you want to write from a cat’s perspective, you have to walk on all fours, don’t you?
    Wood: Language (181-212)
    We have to read musically, testing the precision and rhythm of a sentence, listening for the almost inaudible rustle of historical association clinging to the hems of modern words, attending to patterns, repetitions, echoes, deciding why a metaphor is successful and another is not, judging how the perfect placement of the right verb or adjective seals a sentence with mathematical finality.
    Wow. This sentence just says it all. Once you read your work aloud (also Egan’s advice) you can really use your senses to edit your work. But just the amount of things that are outlined in this sentence as things to pay attention to really made an impression on me.
    Wood: Dialogue (213-222)
    Green argued that dialogue is the best way to communicate with one’s readers, and that nothing kills ‘life’ so much as ‘explanation’.
    This is something that I’ve learned in LT212. Cut the unnecessary explanations. Let your readers guess. The conflict can be hidden in the dialogue, you don’t need to guide us through it. Yet, I’m not sure how successfully I’ve mastered this technique.
    However, one example really stayed with me – Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants.
    ‘It tastes like liquorice,’ the girl said and put the glass down.
    ‘That’s the way with everything.’
    ‘Yes,’ said the girl.’ Everything tastes liquorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.’
    ‘Oh, cut it out.’
    ‘You started it,’ the girl said. ‘I was being amused. I was having a fine time.’
    ‘Well, let’s try and have a fine time.’
    ‘All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’
    ‘That was bright.’
    ‘I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it — look at things and try new drinks?’
    ‘I guess so.’
    Here, Hemingway just proves his superiority. He has put forth the awkwardness, the misunderstanding, the struggle of this couple in a very short dialogue. There is no explanation of their relationship needed – everything is there- we just need to figure it our.


  3. Joel says:

    I am asking you to do what Conrad said fiction should make you do — see. […] Every metaphor or simile is a little explosion of fiction within the larger fiction of the novel or story. (Wood 153)
    This was particularly present in Bad News, where every page was filled with metaphors and similes. I found that this is a very strong element that one can implement in the writing to be able to strengthen the connection between the fictional characters and the reader. I think the power in metaphors lies in that, no matter how absurd, they poke the readers’ imagination and thus solidifying the bond between him and the characters that are on paper. With them, the writer can channel the characters feelings, expectations and unspoken language.

    Even the novice writers avoid the sort of dialogue that is essentially exposition framed by quotation marks, the dialogue they do write often serves a single purpose—that is, to advance the plot—rather than the numerous simultaneous aims that it can accomplish. (Prose 145)
    From all the books we read in LT212, I think The Corrections is the one that taught me most about the importance of dialogue as a plot stimulator. In the case of Franzen’s novel, I found that wishing the dialogue, the crucial aspect was not what was being said but what was being avoided. The way Franzen confronts the characters in the living room, through was is not being said, we feel the tension building up and waiting for it to explode at any time. And this is much like how it works in real life, sometimes the highlight of a conversation is the unspoken dialogue that is going on between people.

    Green argued that dialogue is the best way to communicate with one’s readers, and that nothing kills “life” so much as “explanation”. (Wood 161)
    This follows up on what Paul has constantly mentioned on my short stories, mainly that one should not insult the readers intelligence. We as young writers, and having Flaubert as a major example, want to document on paper everything that surrounds our characters as the plot advances, but we also fall victims to over inform him of whats going on. It is true that we don’t all think alike, but we must also remember that people dive into fiction novels for a reason, they want to submerge in surreal world and battle alongside the character as the plot moves forward. I believe this is one of the hardest aspects I’ve encountered when writing because as I try to give a detailed account of what is going on, I playing the babysitter role and taking the reader by the hand as if he was incapable of figuring things out himself.


  4. Loulou says:

    Wood: Sympathy & Complexity (169-180)
    “Ian McEwan’s Atonement is explicitly about the dangers of failing to put oneself in someone else’s shoes.” Briony in the novel brings down Robbie Turner by misunderstanding a situation, she couldn’t understand it, she was too young. As a reader we can’t sympathize well with the mother, because she is too consumed by her own anxieties. What I found interesting about this is that it shows a lot about the character of the mother, much too consumed in her own self, we see a lot about her. But we don’t like her for it. I struggled in my writing especially with sympathy and where I want to lay it down. Maybe because I don’t want anybody to be a total monster, because I don’t think anyone really is. But somehow has to play the bad cop, right? It’s very complex, like the title already says.
    Wood: Language (181-212)
    On metaphors “it floats a rival reality” and “what Conrad said fiction should make you do – see.” I think when I come up with a metaphors/similes for in my writing, I first have seen it as an image in my head. A reason, as well, why I’m interested in filmmaking. I think that at the beginning I accepted that image too much to let it stay inside my head, and not let it out. But if you don’t tell it as clear as possible as you can actually see it yourself, no one else can see it as well. So that’s what I tried to do more, to clearly express this image. I do struggle with the comparative ‘like’ and ‘as’, because I feel like it comes across as forced sometimes to use these.
    Wood: Dialogue (213-222)
    “Green argued that dialogue is the best way to communicate with one’s readers, and that nothing kills ‘life’ so much as ‘explanation’.” I think this is a very important message to remind myself of every time that I write something. Somehow I really struggle with conversations, they feel so forced to me. So I always end up with way too less conversation in my stories. But conversation is good! It shows a lot of character of a character. Maybe I don’t do the conversations well because I don’t feel confident in a character to let them ‘talk freely’.


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