Considering I completely scrapped my original short story idea in favor of a completely new one, I would say my story has changed a lot! My story is now about a nurse in World War 2. She is a stubborn person who is unwilling to give up any man, despite the severity of his wounds. However, her head nurse disagrees. This becomes the main conflict as the nurse finds what she feels in her heart is right and then fights for it.
I developed the story from the ‘For sale: baby shoes. Never worn’ quote. For me, that showed loss of hope. That developed my central theme, that we should never give up hope in others.
I feel like the activities we have done in the class have made my story more organized. There are certain things that come in a certain order, and I have a better grasp of it. But it has also made my writing process feel more mechanical, less creative. It feels like a checklist where I’m checking off different things I need, such as two conflicts, certain types of symbolism, etc. This has, unfortunately, made it more difficult for me to focus on the creative aspect.
After we deconstructed the writing process, I feel like I understand the psychological elements behind it better. Things like why we need rising action, what the role of the symbols, and peaks vs. plateaus, make more sense now. But it has also disrupted my creative processes. It feels more like a psychological checklist than an art. I feel like looking at the process has made it harder for me because I now have to stop and consider whether I have all the elements. I personally have always worked better by putting the creativity on the page and then going back and ensuring I have the elements. Now, I am forced to do it in reverse. It is frustrating having to change something I have done forever and reversing it. I kinda wish we had approached our learning of the elements differently so it was more fluent for my style of writing.
When our teacher set out the task to find a book to read, they mentioned a specific book as an example of a short, but hard piece. Though Anthem only has a meager 105 pages, it is certainly a challenge. As we like challenges, we decided that this would be our book of choice.
We had to read this twice to understand it. Why is it so confusing? Let us tell you…
Firstly, the philosophy is utter garbage. If you have heard anything about the author, Ayn Rand, it was probably negative. This is because they had a tendency to believe in some pretty strange philosophy. They would take this and use it as the basis for their story. In Anthem, the basis of the story is that the ego is a great thing. Not individuality, not uniqueness, specifically ego. Not the greatest message to send across. We feel that this moral could have and should have been improved on. The story was interesting as a story for us, but the philosophy behind it killed it. This book literally spends the last chapter explaining that “ego” is the heart of the world and “the sacred word”. Really? We don’t need any more support for egotistical people.
Another problem with this book is its fluidity. The speaker tended to jump between thoughts. They would start to detail what is happening and then interrupt it with some information that wasn’t always relevant to the event at the time. There were times where something happened in the book that required some of that information, but that knowledge was located elsewhere. This caused confusion, especially with us constantly flipping back and forth between the pages.
And the last major element of confusion? This one was simultaneously frustrating and brilliant. This is the one and the only book I’ve ever read that almost completely cut out the most common and important words in the English language. Perhaps you have noticed our lack of these words throughout our blog. We did that to give you a taste of this strange style. This book almost never used the words “I”, “she”, and “he”. The most basic words, the essential words of English, and here they are blatantly missing. This was brilliant in the sense that it drove the plot of a dystopian communist society where these words were obliterated. Instead, they used “we”, “they”, “us”, and “you”. But this made it so much more complex because “we” could refer to an individual or a group. And it is up to the reader to figure that out! How confusing!
While not our least favorite book, this one needs some definite work before it is on our recommendation list.
This week, our class has been reading the story “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving. My initial response was a disappointment. I have read the other works of Washington Irving, and I have to say, this did not live up to my expectations of him. My favorite story from him is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Another one I liked is “Rip Van Winkle”. Compared to these two, The Devil and Tom Walker fall behind them. All three are a bit dark and have a moral. But this one is so much less of a story than the others.
Irving’s best talent in writing is creating the setting. He is particularly skilled in painting mysterious and strange landscapes while blending them seamlessly with the general mood of the piece. In all these stories, he succeeds tremendous;y with this. However, he fails to carry this artistic skill over to his characters in this story. When he portrays a character, they tend to be more shadows of people than actual personalities. They are often defined by only a single trait. The characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were better in this respect. But in this story, they are disappointing paper dolls rather than true characters. In Tom Walker, it is his wickedness and miserly characteristics that distinguish him. In his wife, her greed and abusiveness are all there is to her. Without these traits, they would be indistinguishable from each other. Perhaps it is just me, but I would much rather characters that don’t feel like mere cookie-cutter outlines with a single characteristic to tell them apart. A true artist should use more than one color, more than one brushstroke.
The society he presents is conniving, hypocritical, and fake. I think he wrote this to make people face and realize the monsters they try to hide. Some say that life is a stage. This certainly true, considering how talented people are at acting like the innocent and good characters. All acts are fallible, however. This story shows that these acts will eventually be seen through. I believe this was the point Irving was trying to make.
A big thing with modern audiences is getting their attention. This story does nothing towards that. As intriguing as the setting may be, the characters simply fail to keep the attention of the audience. I would make the characters more solid. Currently, they are about as substantial as smoke. This weakens the structure of the story because characters are the foundation. Without a strong foundation, the greatest architectural achievements crumble. This would infinitely improve the story.
Image from: CNT Foundation