While pursuing some of my meandering thoughts, I wondered why no one had ever told me helpful hints on how to write a story. Sure, there were the grammarians that tried unsuccessfully to teach me about misplaced modifiers. There were those who told me such things as, “every story has a beginning, middle and an end”. Duh. Thanks for that insightful clarification.
Wouldn’t it be awesome, to have a high school (or middle school perhaps) English class which uses writing a story as a way to also distribute knowledge of adverbs, adjectives, direct objects and modifiers. What a way to really delve into sentence structure and make some comparisons. It’s also a great excuse to go back to the classics which challenged the reader to comprehend particularly long sentences. Comparisons are invaluable. I have to admit that my writing did not “blossom” in school. My papers were returned with hordes of little red scrawls. Misplaced modifiers were my worst nightmare. I still sometimes miss them, but they at least offer some comedy once I finally catch them. I am sure my teachers had quite a few times when they laughed uproariously while correcting my papers. I, however, was very frustrated by my efforts which always seemed to produce something just short of my goal. This is still the case now, but at least I can say that I have raised my goals. At least I’m pretty sure I have.
It was not until I started really poring over multiple works of Dickens (do not ask me why I latched onto this verbose author) that my writing improved. The sentences seemed quite logical to me, and I appreciated the flow of words in addition to the improved vocabulary. It must have been the thing I was looking for (I later read Socrates and thought…now THAT is what I have been missing all my life) and I could sigh with a kind of relief as I began recognizing the difference between “mediocre” writing and “great” writing. I was happy to fall somewhere in between. I still could not have pointed out different parts of a sentence past the noun, verb and adjective. I know, that is sad. Regardless of the missing information regarding the composition of my sentences, the red marks on my returned papers began to disappear.
I still have the occasional tussle with grammar, as well as syntax. In addition to that though, I have concerns such as keeping my characters straight. It is annoying to have to go back and re-read my story in order to move forward. I tried keeping another file with my characters listed, but found it cumbersome because characters sometimes shift during your story and from a basic character sketch, it can be difficult to determine where your character is in that process. So, I had a nifty little file with my characters which I spent time reviewing, then still had to re-read my story. I disregarded my character sketches. I could write a complex arc for each character, but I’m finding that to do that on the computer is counter-productive. Who would have thought, huh? Instead, I would need to have those story arcs in a binder so I could keep my story up on my screen and peruse my story arc simultaneously. It’s all about the multitasking.
Slight digression there, sorry. Anyway, back to the point at hand. How awesome would it have been for schools to go a little more in depth with English? They teach about how to write an outline for a research paper, so why not how to write a story arc (which is different than an outline)? Why not write characters sketches? Why not talk about building tension, and resolving conflict within writing? So much can be learned through these exercises that it is astounding. I have learned exponentially more through trying to craft my own novel and starting to edit it, than I ever did in my English classes. Sheesh, I’m pretty sure I can still only pick out nouns, verbs and adjectives in a sentence. Somehow though, my writing improved slightly anyway, and for thank I’m sincerely grateful to Mr. Dickens. Hopefully, my writing will continue to improve. I actually bought a grammar book a few months ago, so here’s to hoping for the best!