I get compliments on my writing. I try not to get a swelled head over it, but since I work hard to get the writing right, it’s nice to know I’m on the right track. I have published my first novel (available for sale on Amazon and we’re working on getting a Paypal button installed so you can buy signed copies directly from me). I get “how did you do it?” questions. I get “where should I begin?” questions. I also get “So what do you think is good writing?” questions. I’m going to use my blog here to answer that last question over the next few posts.
I got the idea for this post as I was listening to today’s (It’s Tuesday 10/15/2013) Red Sox/Tigers game on the radio. Well, listening to the WEEI feed through my computer while watching the game on TV with the sound muted. If you know me, you know who my teams are, what the epithets are for the teams I don’t like, and that I think Joe Buck and Tim McCarver would best serve baseball by covering water polo. From underwater. Without air tanks. My sound feed was Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien, the Red Sox audio team. It occurred to me that Dave and Joe (and the legendary Vin Scully of the Dodgers) make the game come alive for their listeners.
I have a law degree, but before I went to law school, I got a Bachelor of Science in Education from UVM (Universatis Veridis Montis (University of the Green Mountains, to be correct) better known as the University of Vermont or “Groovy UV” back in the day:
Mr. Charlie Catamount
Le vrai Charlie Catamount
Yup, we were the nation’s top party school for a bunch of years, now we are “public ivy.”
“Rally Cat”? How the hell did that happen?
Well, I graduated from the College of Education and Social Services in 1983. Now that my parents are gone, I can confess: I BARELY graduated. I almost didn’t have enough credits in a required teaching minor. Fortunately, the Assistant Dean, Art Cheney, liked me (his son Stuart and I used to commute to Shelburne Middle School together for student teaching. We had fun. We formed the Student Teachers Drinking Club with Stu’s roommate, Rick Cooley, his girlfriend, Lindsay Butler, and Kelly Woods, WHO, it turns out, went to kindergarten with me back in Brattleboro, VT. Small state, small world). Between my History and Political Science work at UVM and some of the courses I took during a semester in Australia, CESS essentially “knitted” enough credits into a Social Studies teaching minor with the caveat “don’t try to get certified as a Social Studies teacher.” I didn’t. There was such a glut of teachers when I graduated that I couldn’t even get a regular teaching gig, just substituting. I ended up going to work in the financial services industry. There are people who are just BUGGED out of their minds that I have had licenses for professions that I’ve never used. Get your own or shut up.
But I digress.
As part of my student teaching (which was fun until the little buggers broke my wrist), I had to create a curriculum and teach. I shamelessly ripped off some of the exercises from my English teachers at Proctor High School. If you’re going to steal, make sure it’s quality material.
That’s a long way around to get to this point: part of good writing is being able to describe something with enough detail that your reader experiences it.
Human beings take in approximately 80% of their information visually. Especially when vegging out in front of the TV set. The eyes do most of the work, it’s true, but there are other senses and sense organs that provide info:
Tongue/Taste. If you were a butterfly, you would taste things with your feet.
Nose/Smell. That’s Jimmy Durante’s nose. Too young to know Durante? How many times have you watched the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon at Christmas? Yeah, he’s the narrator.
Hands/Touch. Actually, any part of your skin can give you information about texture and temperature.
I had my kids pick a color. Then, they were to describe that color in terms of the five senses.
Try it: Get a pad and pen (we will get to my diatribe against Spell Check later on)
Pick a color. Any color.
Now, make five columns on the paper and put the name of a sense at the top of each column.
Now, under each column, write down how that color hits your senses. What does purple sound like (Say Prince and lose points for being unimaginative)? What does white taste like? Is it a simple single note taste, like vanilla or is it more complex like…lasagna? Does orange feel like your favorite sweatshirt? “Wishing You Were Here” by Chicago sounds blue to me.
Make your lists and submit them in the comments. I really want to know what you guys do.