How is good writing like being assaulted?
It bruises your heart, it batters your brain, pokes you in the eyes and boots you in the face. When you read a piece of descriptive writing, it pulls the old you in, kills it and creates a new you. It changes you completely.
With thanks to JH in Year 10
In the best tradition of extended metaphors, I’d like to offer this continuation of JH’s thinking…
Good writing has Body
- Has heart
- Writing shouldn’t be dry, or unemotional, or by rote – it should tell us something about the person who wrote it, about ourselves and it should matter.
- We need to ask students to make us feel; we need to make that an explicit goal, otherwise many will never reach for their own emotions, but will simply keep them boxed away.
- Has bones
- The piece needs a structure – the topic sentences need to both stand alone and to hold the whole piece together
- Sometimes we need to provide the bones and demand the flesh. Sometimes we need to write controlled paragraphs and ask students to mimic our control. Sometimes we need to train them to mirror the patterns of a poem for use in their writing.
- Has soul
- Writing needs to mean something – it needs a message which makes us think about life, human nature, the world and our place in it…
- We need to offer them a theme, to tell them what the message is, to ask about the bigger issues in a piece of description – don’t just describe a winter’s scene; tell me how humanity itself changes when winter strikes the world.
- Has a pulse
- The sentences, paragraphs and structures need a rhythm – the words and ideas need to dance on the page
- Force a rhythm – set the number of words in a line, demand a single-line paragraph, ask for doubled adjectives at the start of sentences.
- Has nerves
- Woven through the writing should be tracery of extended metaphor, linked images, repeated words and ideas, giving the whole piece a cohesion and life…
- Establish the metaphor, teach students how to control them, tell them that the simile “My stomach churned like a washing machine” is the wrong lexical field for a horror story. Make it all part of one tapestry.