Monday, July 8, 2013

Sweet Memories - Anderson's 4th THING, Part 2

I've been away from things for a week, and I dove back into the second half of Anderson's fourth Thing Every Writer Needs to Know - DETAIL.  In this second part, he focuses on the different kinds of details writers can use, and when and how to tell when to use detail as a support for non-fiction writing.  He also discusses how focus narrows your writing, and detail expands it.

After writing today, I can see that I need to reign in my detail in some places, expand only slightly in others.  My big struggle as a writer has always been focus.  I'm planning to take the draft you see below and mark it up for where I need to focus on other senses and expand detail, and in others where I need to lose excessive detail (The Goldilocks Rule - Not too much, Not too Little, Just Right).  All suggestions are appreciated.  Feel free to leave them in the comments below.  No suggestion too big or too small.

Today's TeachersWrite! prompts had to do with sensory detail.  Guest author, Donna Gephart, prompted us to use a specific sense to add detail to our writing.  Start with the sense.

I started with two senses: Sight and Smell.  I had been driving past the local prison this weekend and noticed how the fencelines bordering the property had become overgrown with lush greenery, and one particular patch had a riot of viny flowers clinging to it, making this harsh place beautiful, if only in one spot.  The prompt from writer Jo Knowles this morning had to do with so much in life being ephemeral, focusing on the phrase: "You can't take it with you."

I combined the two, and freewrote this mini-story I'm calling Nectar.

by Jessica Wisniewski

You can’t take it with you.
Butch stroked the creamy petals of the honeysuckle vine.  They’d always looked like tiny superheroes to him, floating down to earth, capes breezing above them.  With a twist of his squared-off fingers, he plucked the blossom and brought its base to his cracked, feverish lips.  He expected the nectar of his youth, but this tiny droplet held none of the honey-sweetness he remembered from his childhood.  Another bitter disappointment, just like him.
He sank further against the sharp wire of the fence surrounding the grounds at Statesville Penitentiary, and tried to let the vines conceal his body.  Even if their honey didn’t taste as sweet, this honeysuckle still managed to sell itself to Butch with its fragrance.
As a child, he and Molly and Chris had spent hours in their fort, out of reach of angry fists and empty cupboards.  Chris, as the oldest, had scouted out the spot and made it their sanctuary.  South of the Anderson’s acres of corn, only a short run for stubbly little legs like Molly’s and his, but far enough to be out of sight and out of mind. 
There was a scraggly oak that had been struck by lightning and split in half before Butch had been born.  Only one side of the tree had survived the trauma, and the other half had peeled away and drooped like a comically half-peeled banana.  It was on this splintery curve that the honeysuckle had climbed, fed by the years of summer heat and field drainage.  It crept over the limb and hung itself, a thick green tent to shield the three disappearing childhoods in its cloying embrace.  They drank the blossoms and licked the stamens clean.
It was here that Chris told them stories in the sweet heavy air of July, the honey fragrance spiced with the green sugar of July corn.  It was here that they buried their treasures in an old tin cigar box with fancy drawings embedded on the lid like fine art.  It was here that Butch brought Molly to keep her safe when Chris was gone.  The smell and leaves of the honeysuckle vines would protect them into the fall when they finally had to make other plans.
Butch crushed the petals between his thick fingers, and let the vines protect him in their sweet tent one last time as he fed the ground with his lifeblood, and his troubles couldn’t follow.

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