Descriptive Writing: The craft of exploring and describing the setting of a person, a place, an object or an event.
One way that I put this skill to use was by completing a ‘Why I Write’ task issued to the class by our tutor.
Why I Write
I write to understand. To understand the world. To understand myself. I write to fill the curiosity inside of myself; to know what is going on in the world, to see what I live in. I write to know more. To know more about life. To know more about the people I surround myself with. To know how to deal with what I experience, and to know how to deal with others. To know why society is the way society is. I write to discover. To discover new things. To discover new places with new people. To discover what it is that I love about my place in this twisted world. I write to appreciate. To appreciate the finer things in life; the things we do not show gratitude for until they are gone. To appreciate the things I love and hold close to me; the things I never want to let go of. I write to improve. To improve the way I function. To improve the way I write; to make myself better as a writer and as a person. I write to find. To find out what I am worth as a human. To find my personal value and to find my meaning to others around me. To find out what it means to be cared for and to be loved. I write because when nothing else in the world makes sense the words that come to my head do. Whether they’re random thoughts or focused on a task, my own words are much more reliable than any other emotion or train of thought I can gain from interaction with others. I write to forget. To forget all of the bad, and even the good. To forget what it’s like to be harmless in a world that needs us to be so much more. To forget what it is like to feel forgotten before I’ve even left. To forget what it means to lose someone and to forget what it feels like to gain someone new. To forget everything except writing.
To accomplish this piece of writing I used a similar written piece by Jeff Goins (1). The structure Goins applied in his piece to describe why he writes was inspirational to me as he uses a rather simple sentence structure to express his feelings and emotions through his writing. Compared to my own piece, Goins’ writing is more detailed in some areas, but also shorter than my own. Most sentences of both my own and Goins’ pieces start with “I write to…” which personally I feel is very plain and simple yet when repeated the phrase has more meaning and depth to it.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this task because it gave me the opportunity to explore my own personal reasons for writing and find a way to write them down in a format that is meaningful, descriptive and structured. I think that I could have improved by adding more detail to the vague statements that were made in my writing. However, I feel as though I used my own style of writing, and I think that through my writing my emotions and intentions seep through.
Characterisation: The concept of building a character study for a narrative.
In class to practice this skill we were given an image to look at and we were asked to create a small description or story based on the contents of the image. I named my description “The Late Train“:
The Late Train
The late train comes at midnight. Eleven forty-eight. Twelve minutes left. The silence of the desolate station deafening to the man’s ears. His sharp but gentle features; diminishing with each passing minute, his eyes illuminated by the faintly glowing lamps above his head, and his slender wrists decorated with an old brown tattered wrist watch that is checked every thirty seconds, from afar seem so gently and innocently placed there in the station, with only nine minutes to go, but with such fear cascading his now shaded face, it is evident that the man is imploding as a result of his own fear and self-hatred; so much so that thirty seconds could change his entire outlook. Seven minutes. He seems more relaxed now, his shoulders slightly slumped, whether or not that is a sign of defeat or comfort is unknown. The quiet tick-tock of his wrist watch echoes throughout the lonely platform as the man knows not what it is he must do with his remaining time; not wanting to push himself over the tracks.
A small description that I will compare my writing with is the description of Harry Potter in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’.
“Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.” (2)
The description of Harry in the book mainly focused on his physical appearance whereas in my description of the train station I also made some comments on the appearance of the setting that the man was in.
The structure of J.K Rowling’s descriptive piece of Harry is very straight to the point, and just describes the way Harry looks quickly rather than dwindling on small points, which is almost the opposite to my own piece as I focus on the smaller parts of the character such as a wrist watch and the train station lights.
To improve on this skill I will try to explore both ways of describing; being straight to the point, as well as taking my time to describe the smaller aspects of the setting.
Interviewing/effective questioning: asking efficient and useful questions when interviewing.
The way that we practiced this skill was by interviewing another student in our class and then writing up the information that we gathered in an article of that person.
One example of interviewing and effective questioning would be this interview with Sebastian Stan (3). This interview includes Max Berlinger interviewing actor Sebastian Stan, and asking several questions based on his lifestyle, social media, his fans and his future/potential films. The questions asked by the interviewer were a mixture; some were specific, meaning Stan could only give certain answers, and others were more open and general, allowing the actor to give a more generic answer.
Compared to my own piece of writing, the GQ Style interview was much more organised and professional, as my interview did not have any specific topic and I did not particularly ask any interesting questions or get any information that was not already known.
To improve on this skill I will make sure that I focus on asking questions that are open and can allow the interviewed to give me a detailed answer with useful information, and I will make sure to focus on a certain aspect of the person so that the article I produce from the interview will seem more focused.
Research: The art of discovering and finding out information on specific topics by searching online, in books, magazines and other resources.
To practice this skill throughout the week we carried out a game called ‘Philosophical Inquiries’ and we debated several topics to share information and gain information, which is classed as a type of research. One of the topics that we debated was “Is it best to be a good person, or to follow the rules?” and I wrote a piece on my thoughts of that topic.
A professional example of this skill is from the television show ‘Question Time’ on which people debate on a range of different topics, and the clip that I chose to watch and compare with my own argument was the debate on poverty and austerity (4).
The clip from Question Time very much shows the intensity and seriousness of using debating as a type of research, as it clearly shows how sides of an argument can inform you and give you useful information that can then be transported into an article on the topic discussed.
The difference between my argument and the argument Salma Yaqoob gave is that Salma gave facts and figures, whereas I gave opinions and beliefs instead of giving concrete information. Although the topics of each debate were vastly different, the fact that Yaqoob used statistics and facts made her argument much more informative and made her point seem more reachable.
To improve on the skill of researching, I will ensure that when debating I use facts and figures as much as opinions, as they will help to compliment my argument and help to highlight the points that I am trying to get across, as well as informing my audience as much as possible.
- Goins, J. (2013) ‘Why I Write’, Goins Writer, 12 December. Available at: http://goinswriter.com/why-i-write/ (Accessed: 21 September 2016)
- Rowling, J.K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Reprint, United States: Scholastic Corporation, 1998.
- Stan, S. (2016) ‘Sebastian Stan on Social Media, Style and Life After Captain America’. Interviewed by Max Berlinger for GQ Style, 16 May. Available at: http://www.gq.com/story/sebastian-stan-style-interview (Accessed: 21 September 2016)
- latentexistence (2014) Salma Yaqoob tackles Iain Duncan Smith on poverty and austerity #bbcqt Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QRdNIDytEY (Accessed: 21 September 2016)