Creating layers of meaning
1. First rule: “show not tell”; there is a tendency to overwrite and over-explain. You must give your readers an opportunity to think and reflect.
2. The use of dialogue: sparsely used dialogue is often a shortcut to a person’s thoughts and feelings, mannerisms and body language. Remember your “tone” words from language analysis.
3. Your creative piece needs conflict/tension. This might be between two characters; (relationship-based) or it might be a character’s dilemma.
2. Main character : it is important to achieve depth when sketching characters. This is often achieved by depicting idiosyncratic and/or contradictory behaviour, attitude, emotions and actions.
- Find ways to inject complexity into a character by placing them in a dilemma; eg. Elizabeth Proctor (Crucible) who, in court, tells her first lie to protect her husband’s reputation
- For this reason, be careful of those text types which are limited: eg. eulogies are by nature restricted; they are a heartfelt, usually positive tribute to a deceased person. You can, but it is difficult, to convey complexity.
3. The use of embedded stories and flashbacks help to build complexity and added perspectives:
- Ransom (Malouf), Beauty, pp. 140-41
4. The use of imagery/symbolism/extended metaphors
- Blossom Beeby – Growing up Asian; the Face in the Mirror – p 324-325
- The symbolism of the dove: Wife of Martin Guerre – pp 74 – 75
- The symbolism of the ring of water around the twins, the beastie, Lord of the Flies, Roger 78
5. The use of a child or alternative/simplistic narrator; this can be a vehicle to achieving a simple but complex outlook.
- To Kill a Mockingbird; Scout’s relationship with Atticus and Aunt Alexander; the symbolism of the table settings/fight with Francis (foreshadowing device for resolution of conflict); Jem and the “caterpillar in a cocoon”;
- Christopher Boon (the narrator with autism): The Curious Incident of the Dog
6. The use of an expert/role model mentor, to elevate views/values/impart author’s advice
- Catcher in the Rye – Steckels p. 169
- The Beastie – Simon, pp 157-8
7. Symbolism of poetry – the Catcher in the Rye – Robert Burns, p. 155 and symbolism of falling off the cliff and catching the children
8. The use of setting and landscape as a symbol or reflection of character
- “The Boat”: The Island , p. 8 – 9; both the mother’s and father’s rooms reflect their different personalities and temperaments and their attitudes towards each other; and their relationship with the children.
- Alistair MacLeod also refers to pictures to provide background information on characters.
- The use of a dark place to suggest sub-conscious anxiety, dreads, phobias etc. Poe and The Tell Tale Heart – hides the man’s body under the floorboards – guilt/sin/beating of his “subconscious heart”
9. The use of comparisons and juxtapositions in a text
- Characters (mother/father – the Boat)
- Attitudes and ideas : Generals die in bed, p. 73-74
10. Character changes and developments: Christmas Carol – p. 59 – character and change – Scrooge
11. Using a “different” or “child” character as a narrator:
- Sharp, simplistic, direct and blunt tone/style to reflect the main character’s mindset (a person with a disability = Aspergers).
- Authors often and deftly use this character to make criticisms about “clever” and “normal” people
Drafts for Creative Piece
It is important to do three completely different drafts/sketches for your creative piece. Each will be no longer than three paragraphs/half a page.
The paragraphs do not need to be fluent or consist of a sequential flow of thoughts. Just jot down your ideas, some character descriptions, and a few sentences about the type of themes you wish to explore. You might include some flashback, some dialogue etc.
You must try to devise a concept that involves some complexity, (involve some creative strategies), in order to avoid a clichéd or stereotypical response. Otherwise, you can keep tweaking your words and improving your expressions, and doing multiple drafts, but it will not improve markedly.
I will give you feedback on which piece has the most potential, ie. complex and innovative, original thoughts, ideas and concept – at least one decent creative strategy. I will also give you ideas about how to explore.
You need to show clear connections with your source story. So be clear about the author’s strategies and intentions/views/values. This might involve using the author’s strategies or metaphors/symbols in an original way.
It is a good idea, to think of another real-life character, or a couple of stories about people you have read, who resemble this character. This will help you enlarge and broaden your scope. It will help you fill in gaps, if you have picked a minor character; it will also enable you to do something a little different if you are thinking about main characters.
You must start with an original and captivity beginning, ie. Anecdote, dialogue. Make sure you are right in the middle of your story and that your “narrative voice” is clear. It must be obvious, who is talking, and why.
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