4 days ago
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Biographies: Word Choice and Point of View
The following is an example from classic literature that I want to share with my creative writing students so they can analyze the word choices an author makes to convey information about the main character.
Literary Inspiration for this assignment: Lolita By: Vladimir Nabokov
“Lolita, light of my life … My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Delores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.”
What do you know about Lolita from reading these paragraphs? What do you know about the narrator by reading these paragraphs? What words are negative, and what words are positive? Which point of view did the author use in this passage?
Another Example is one about me. You all know me in some sense. You might know me as a teacher, a mother, a friend, or a blogger. But from each of these perspectives you would learn something different.
I am Nicole, my name means victory. I am a grouch in the wee hours of the morning when the alarm clock is buzzing. I don’t become human until after a really hot shower, a cold Dr Pepper, and a chocolate fudge pop tart I probably didn’t have time to toast. I am a teacher and a computer technology leader in my school 40 miles from home. When the students get to my classroom I become Mrs. Badgley. But as I unwind over the long drive home, I convert back to being mom, and it isn’t until I have spent time with each of my 3 kids, my chores are done, and they are all in bed that I have time to spend with my husband.
You are my victory. You are my Nicole. You are my Honey in the wee hours of the morning, as the glowing buzz of alarm sounds. You are my Nikki after a scalding shower, some ice-cold caffeine, and an untoasted pop tart. You evolve into Nicole as you commute to the faculty meeting and to check your network. You are Mrs. Badgley, as you were on our wedding day, but different. You are Mrs. Badgley the teacher and computer geek 40 miles from me. You return home to me, after a long drive to become the mom to our kids; to play go fish, to help with homework, to listen to basketball practice relived over supper, to watch and clap for a dance rehearsal. And then, finally, after everyone has taken their piece of your time, you become mine. You are again my wife, my friend, forever.
She was named for victory, my victory, my wife, my Nicole. She is Honey in the wee morning hours, as the glowing buzz of alarm sounds. She is Nikki after a scalding shower, some ice-cold caffeine, and an untoasted fudge pop tart. She evolves into Nicole when the long commute is over, the faculty meeting finished, and the daily network check is complete. She flips into Mrs. Badgley mode as the students saunter in, weary from late night texting or cramming for a literature test. She slows down, as the sun dips, and the road closes in on the gravel driveway leading home to 3 starving tummies, a pile of bills, and a load of laundry; she becomes Mom again. And finally as the homework is finished, go fish is played, basketball practice is relived, the dance routine demonstrated, the dishes abandoned on the counter, and the beds filled, she can become my wife and my friend for a few hours before the returning cycle.
Nicole, named for victory. In the wee morning hours, as the glowing buzz of alarm sounds, she is Honey. After a scalding shower, some ice cold caffeine, and an untoasted fudge pop tart, she is Nikki. When the long commute is over, the faculty meeting finished, and the daily network check is complete, she is Nicole. As the students saunter in, weary from late night texting or cramming for a literature test, she is Mrs. Badgley. As the sun dips, and the road closes in on the gravel driveway leading home to 3 starving tummies, a pile of bills, and a load of laundry, she becomes Mom again. As the homework is finished, go fish is played, basketball practice is relived, the dance routine demonstrated, the dishes abandoned on the counter, and the beds filled, she can become a wife and a friend.
What mood or tone does each paragraph give off? Which gives better information about me as a person? How is each set of information different from the rest? What mental pictures do you get with each one? Are they all different? What words (in each paragraph) are negative? What words are more positive? Which words make the person sound happy? Unhappy? Who is the narrator or speaker in each of the paragraphs?
Your Assignment: Write a paragraph about yourself similar to the style of Nabokov in the Lolita paragraphs. Be careful with your word choices so as to reveal as much about yourself as you can without actually telling the reader anything. Write from your instincts. Once you are done, now try writing the same paragraph in another point of view. Don’t worry about trying to use the exact same words, but convey much of the same ideas. Continue attempting to write the paragraph(s) in different points of view until you have written all four.