Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fashioning Form with Perspective - Anderson's 5th THING

This week I’m digging into Jeff Anderson’s 5th Thing from 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know.  FORM is the fifth thing, and I’ll probably be spending at least one more week working through it.  It’s chock full of ways to approach this broad topic.  It starts by warning us that teaching form in writing is no excuse to give “fill-in-the-blank” forms for students to approach writing. (Ex: Your Intro sentence goes here. Your second sentence should explain your topic sentence more. Your third sentence should be some sort of evidence or quote from a text source.)  As much as I’d like to deny it, I’ve resorted to those extremes sometimes – at least with expository and argumentative writing. (Bad, Jessica! You go to your classroom and think about what you’ve done!)  Instead, Anderson wants us to look at form as a method of discovery for students to engage in understanding the different ways that writers make certain types of writing work.
He begins by talking about genres as forms of writing, which connects well with reading lessons, and he’s careful to recommend models that force students to discover that there is a lot of overlap in genres.  Why, even what we count among the different genres is disputed.
Next, he talks about perspective lending form to writing – focusing on mostly first and third – and how those perspectives can change the tone of a piece and what the PURPOSE of the author using them.  He shows how a narrowly focused narrative can be a way to engage readers in non-fiction, and how facts and history can make fiction into historical fiction.
The next section discusses purpose and audience openly, leading to MODES of writing.  He discusses the four modes of writing and how they can overlap: Description, Explanation, Narration, and Argumentation. 
The final section that I’m looking at today shows us how to help students discover the all-important EXPOSITORY TEXT STRUCTURES.  

I’m already making the poster.

            In TeachersWrite today, guest author Megan Miranda, asks us to use perspective in our writing as well.  Megan Miranda, author of YA mysteries FRACTURE and HYSTERIA, was one of the authors Anderson’s Bookshop brought to the area for a pre-publication event before FRACTURE was released.  I got to read an ARC of the book and meet Ms. Miranda there.  She was delightful, smart, and insightful, and that comes through in her writing too.
She asks us to consider WHO is telling the story as they tell it.  Example: The smell of gingerbread might be a lovely scent to me, evocative of Christmas, family, and good times.  To the character I’m writing, however, the scent of gingerbread might be a frightful, sickening thing, an odor that drags with it memories of family strife and grief. So, in describing the scene or narrating the story, the writer must always be watchful of the teller’s perspective.  I don’t have a WIP (work in progress) that I’m swimming in right now, so I chose to use the photo she provided to write my description from a character’s perspective – something different from what I would see and interpret as the writer.  The result is the following quickwrite.

By Jessica Wisniewski

Marcus couldn’t face the lifeboat even one more time.  The violently orange lifeboat was supposed to be a two-man vessel, but it was a lie.  Looking at it hurt his eyes almost as much as the glare of the sun off the gritty sand. The azure waters were no comfort. It was calm now, but he knew its depths hid monsters. Monsters that made the waves pitch and roil and steal your life. His oar was still where he’d dropped it last night when the storm had finally thrown the tiny orange boat onto the beach like the trash it was.  He wondered where Mom’s oar was now.  His mind skittered away from the thought like a cliff’s edge, but it was too late.  Marcus closed his eyes against the tardy sunlight, sank to the burning sand, and let the grief overwhelm him. 

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