Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Filtering Blue Oxen

My writing instructor posts video lectures every week. They're brief but well done. So far most of what he's covered is not new to me. I didn't take this class looking so much for lessons in how to write as opportunities to exercise some atrophied muscles. But he did touch on something during one of his lectures that I am guilty of and if I get nothing else out of the rest of the course (and of course I will) this will be worth the time I invested in it.


He addressed "filtering" which means to describe all surroundings and events through the POV of the MC. There's a place and a time for this, but doing it too much weakens the effect. For example: 


He looked out the window and realized that there was a blue ox stood in his drive way. He was sure it was not there a moment before.  His coffee flew everywhere as he jumped backwards in surprise. Now he'd never get to read that paper, which was a shame because the headline would have explained the ox. 


vs


He looked out the window.  A blue Ox stood in his driveway;  one that wasn't there a moment before.  Odd thing about blue oxen; no one ever expects them. He yelled and jumped backwards. His cup flew from his hands, coffee fleeing the scene like it will when startled--down his front, into his lap, across the table, and onto the morning newspaper he hadn't read yet and now probably never would. Which was a shame because the headline would have explained the ox.  


Notice the stark difference? I did. Filtering weakens the effect of the image. And yes, I got excited about the second para. Excuse me. 


This week we learned about the power of metaphors and had to do an exercise that involved a list of intangible and tangibles words (love, park bench, jealousy, video games . . . ) that we were required to make similes with. We were then supposed to use our best metaphor and extend it by a sentence or two.  Using a prefab list is harder than you might think (it's a little like Scrabble).  I wrote a lot of weak ones that brought to mind greeting cards and I'm still not happy with the final results (sentimental fluffy tripe). Still--it could be worse (and was): 


Love is a park bench—where we sit and watch others who are hurrying past to all the places we all have to go—to the office to work late again because our boss believes in hiring martyrs; to the store to buy the only food the damn cat will eat; home to answer emails, to pretend we didn’t get that phone call from our great aunt, and eat our leftover ravioli in front of the TV. And those of us on the park bench (in love) feel sorry for them because we beat them to the best seat in the park—and while we still have to go all those places and do all those things when we get up, we won’t have to do them alone anymore.  



6 comments:

Scotty said...

Never too old to learn something new, eh, Mary? *smile*

Jealousy is like a video game; more specifically it's a first-person shooter in which the only person to get shot is the one wielding the gun because it all depends on the size of your processor, fool. Images flash before the eyes at a gazillion frames per second and unless your mind is the equivalent of the latest and greatest video card, the ping speeds between retina and cortex central are so bad as to ensure you're lagging behind everyone else in understanding how stupid you look. So, dump that Commodore 64 and command-line interface and update yourself to a quad-core i7 mindset; be sure that you have your malware running as well.

Or something like that, lol.

Heh - just noticed that my verification word is 'unfirey'

Scotty said...

PS - yes, feel free to use it if you actually like it, lol.

Debby said...

I actually do like the paragraph a lot. The best seat in the house is, in my case, a seat for two. And it's nice to know that if you have to get up and do something else for a time (like school), he'll save that seat until you get back.

Mary Paddock said...

LOL Scotty. Umm . . . I'm supposed to turn in my own work--that whole honor thing you know. :)


Debby--Thanks for coming by. And I'm glad you appreciated my "extended" metaphor. I really had to rein myself in or it would have become a page length one.

Pencil Writer said...

This is a fun place to be when my brain and body are so tired and filled with pain--some idiot kind of virus or something--that not only drains your physical/mental juices, you just hurt all over too. Sorry to be so self-pitying but I needed your fun metaphors--yours and Scotty's--to give me a much needed :-)

Mary Paddock said...

PW--I'm sorry to hear you've been ill. I do hope you're feeling better now. I'm glad this bit of real life zaniness made you smile.