All posts relating to the Creative Writing section of the Creative Arts Today course are below.
The next section of my module considers Creative Writing, as a starting exercise we were asked to make two lists. One list of of reasons why people write another of reasons why people read. I drew these as little diagrams in my physical learning log:
I noticed that there’s quite a lot of cross overs or similarities between the lists. In fact it was hard to write one list without thinking of the other, I think this is because reading and writing are so connected. They feed into each other i.e. the more you read the more likely you are to be motivated to write.
What happens to a story when you take it from its source, make it permanent in print, and disseminate it to a wide audience?
I think there’s a few things that happen, which are worth considering. Firstly that a story becomes more accessible, it is available to a range of people of different backgrounds and experiences. On the one hand this is a positive thing, as a writer your work is reaching a wider audience, your characters are being shared and discovered. However I wonder if sometimes this makes a writer afraid or worried, their story is no longer theirs, it’s now open to interpretation by anyone and everyone. Once something is published in print it’s impossible to guard its contents, anyone can use or misuse it.I also think print makes a story set, it is fixed, and those words cannot be revoked or edited. It’s not a blog post or webpage that can be edited at a later date, there’s a finality to it.
Write a list of implications arising from the printing press. For example, think about who has control/authority over the text, the meaning of the text and the relationship between the source of the text and its recipient.
Considering the implications of the digital revolution for creative writing:
Interesting further links/research
I looked into one piece of work in the augmented reality field called:
It’s fascinating as something which exists in several formats or places, but not fully in any. There is a physical book with QR codes which you can be read by using the webcam of your computer, which in turn then allows you to see animated projections of poetry. The subject of the ‘book’ itself also deals with fragmentation through the theme of two lovers trying to define the limits and extents of their relationship. I’m not sure how much I would enjoy reading it though as it feels quite disjointed!
Youtube channel – Future of Story telling:
I’ve included a link above to series of video’s about the ‘future of storytelling’ – these video’s include different viewpoints on the affect of technology on storytelling. They discuss Augmented Reality, the capturing of stories within Game-play and many more subjects. For me watching these video’s is exciting, I see a glimpse into a world where the limits of our imagination and the concept of reality being expanded. But I also feel a little overwhelmed by the pace of change, technology seems to move so rapidly, it can feels hard to keep up!
I found I needed to read the essay a number of times before I felt able to consider the implications of the digital revolution for creative writing. In the process however I did find that creating a little illustration of what ‘new media’ was helpful (see feature image at top of post).
For this exercise we were asked to compile lists of everything we’d seen, heard or written in the last 24 hours. It seemed simple until I realised I actually consume so much information in a day that it becomes difficult to precisely record or track what exactly I’ve seen or head.
I made a couple of rough sketches as a way of capture these lists:
I was also encouraged to consider this question; How much of what you’ve read (or written or seen or heard) would you consider to be ‘art’? What makes writing art? How do you personally define a creative or artistic piece of writing?
I probably only consider a few things I’ve read to be art, mainly because most of what I read was either texts, or emails, news stories or blog posts. Perhaps the blog posts could be art, in the sense that they weren’t all factual, some contained stories, but it’s hard to describe journalism as art.
But I would consider a lot of what I heard or saw to be art – for instance the TV series ‘Cities of Gold’ is a fictional animated tale about the search for lost cities filled with treasure. Music listened to – an art form in itself, stories being told through music, lyrics, mood, dynamics etc.
I guess the question I find myself asking is can something be art if it wasn’t originally intended to be? Can something be art without an artist to define it as such? I think context matters and delivery in helping to decide if something is art. I see no problem in defining a text message as art when it’s displayed in a gallery or in a book of modern poetry but I do have a problem in defining a text with a list of groceries from my husband for a shopping list as art.
I chose the film ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki to map the stages of the hero’s journey. I decided to take a two fold approach to mapping the hero’s journey by creating illustrations of the stages as well as writing about them here on the blog.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: Chihiro’s first test is to find Kamaji the boiler man, and ask him for a job, Haku, says she must not meet the witch who runs the bath-house. She fails her test, Kamaji will not give her a job, but he asks Lin, a worker, to help her find a job elsewhere. He becomes her ally, risking his own job to help her find one. Lin, at first seems hostile to Chihiro, seeing her as a nuisance more than anything else! Chihiro makes her way to Yubaba’s rooms, she is the owner of the bath-house, it quickly becomes clear she is evil and an enemy, wanting to feed Chihiro’s parents (now pigs) to the guests. She gives Chihiro a job working with Lin cleaning the bath tubs. Chihiro then faces her next test, helping out a river spirit who has become clogged up with human rubbish. Another test follows when a strange spirit, No Face, enters the bath-house and follows her around, becoming aggressive. Chihiro discovers Haku is also a dragon, and he has been stealing from Yubaba’s magic. Lin and Kamaji act as allies, helping her to prepare to leave the bath-house.
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: Haku is injured having stolen magic from Zeniba, the twin sister of witch Yubaba. To save Haku, Chihiro sets out on a journey to Zeniba’s house. She catches a train with No Face in tow, this is her approach to the Inmost Cave.
8. Ordeal: Chihiro reaches Zeniba’s house expecting conflict, but discovers Zeniba is a kind witch. Zeniba tell’s Chihiro she has to look within herself to find answers to saving Haku and bringing her parents back, this is her ordeal.
9. Reward: Haku appears in dragon form at Zeniba’s, he takes Chihiro back to the bath-house. On the journey Chihiro remembers Haku’s real name, this free’s him from being a dragon spirit, and allows him to cancel his working contract with Zeniba. His happiness and freedom is Chihiro’s reward because she loves him.
10. The Road Back: Once back at the Bath-house Chihiro carries out her last test from Zeniba. She is then free to take the road back to the human world, and finds that the river has turned to grass allowing her to cross back to the tunnel.
11. Resurrection: Along the path back to the human world Chihiro finds her parents, this is their resurrection as a family back together heading to normal life.
12. Return with the Elixir: The family find their car and discover the tunnel and car are overgrown with plants. As they leave Chihiro’s father comments that moving home and making new friends is a bit intimidating. Chihiro replies that she thinks she can handle it, her elixir is her new found confidence and removal of fear about moving.
Using the Hero’s Journey template from the first half of the exercise I have come up with my own plot. I think it’s probably best as the outline to a short story, but could make a sweet film. My Hero’s Journey focuses around a female lead character called Betty. Betty is a travel agent who is afraid of travel, or more accurately the unknown. The story really focuses on how she overcomes her fears to lead a more free life.
Ordinary World: Betty is a travel agent who lives in small flat in London. Her world is her job, helping other people reach their dream destination. Her world is entirely predictable, she shops in the same places, see’s the same people she always has etc.
Call to Adventure: Betty’s Travel agency is part of a larger firm. The firm is running a competition to acknowledge the ‘best travel agent’. Unbeknownst to Betty she has been nominated by her manager. Inevitably Betty wins the competition, the prize however is an all expenses paid trip to Umbria, Italy.
Refusal of the Call: She refuses to take the prize, finally admitting to herself and her boss that she has never been abroad because she is afraid of what might happen. She continues to carry on working, doing her best to ignore that feeling of disappointment.
Meeting with the Mentor: A man in his late twenties visits the shop she works in. He, Peter, wants to book a trip to Umbria, Italy. He has severe anxiety and has been wanting to take this trip for years. Betty feels able to open up to him about the prize. He convinces Betty to go with him to Umbria, saying he will help her overcome her fears.
Tests, Allies, Enemies: Everything is a test for Betty. A test of her resolve, but also of her courage. It takes courage for her to take her first flight, the taxi to the hotel. Staying somewhere unfamiliar overnight is a huge test. Peter is obviously the first of her allies, but she meets another named Sophia. Sophia finds Betty having a panic attack in a local store. She calms Betty down and helps her back to the hotel. The two become friends. Betty’s enemy has been with her all along – her anxiety and fear of change. It rears it’s ugly head throughout the trip!
Approach to the Inmost Cave: Betty is feeling demoralised and wants to return home. She feels like she must complete one activity alone before returning. She has always wanted to see one particular town in Umbria. She plans a trip to this town.
Ordeal: Along her journey to the town she becomes lost. She asks a stranger for directions, he deliberately misdirects her, and she becomes even more lost.
Reward: She refuses to give up and despite being alone and lost, continues on. The stranger’s direction leads her to a beautiful elevated view of the countryside and town below. He directed her to a view which allowed her to see all the town but from a different perspective. She also gains new faith in her ability to manage the unknown.
The Road Back: Betty’s journey back home gives her time to re-access her life, as she travels she comes to an epiphany.
Resurrection: Betty’s Resurrection is a new life, new job – as a travel guide in Italy. She finally gets to travel to all the places she studied and put the Italian she learnt at University to good use.
Return with the Elixir: The Elixir for Betty is a transformed view of herself, and freedom from her anxiety. She is able to share this and help others, including Peter.
Notes on process:
At first I found this task really difficult, I didn’t know where to begin. I feel like art and creative writing for me a strongly linked to drawing from personal experience. I didn’t know how to write something really fantasy based or comical. But I know what it’s like to experience anxiety and to have to find ways to overcome it in the everyday activity of life. I used this as my idea for the story outline.I don’t think it’s a masterpiece of creative writing but I do think it makes good use of the metaphor’s in the Hero’s Journey by putting them in a very human, down to earth scenario.
I also took some time to create an image to go with this post, using some photo’s from my own trip to Italy when I was a teenager. I used Photoshop to do this, it’s not perfect but I enjoyed doing it and it helps me not to forget all the things I learned to do in my graphic design module.
I came up with of few other examples of archetype beyond those already suggested. As a recap those already suggested in my work book were:
I drew up a different list below:
I came across a few new ideas or concepts of archetypes reading this udemy blog guide to literary characters, namely, Mother & Female Architect. I also found an interesting page from a Cambridge university site which proposed a slightly different structure to archetype’s.
It briefly names Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (1928) and a list of seven archetypes of fairy tales. I think some of these translate across several story telling mediums.
Archetypes present in: ‘The Hunger Games’
Female Hero/Protagonist – Katniss Everdeen
Katniss is a complex character. The Hero because she fights for what is good, her love of her sister, defends the weak (Rue) and doesn’t kill gladly. But she is also a survivor, and willing to use deceit , to trick people into believing that she is in love with Peeta (at least that’s initially the idea). She defies the normal stereotype of a male character as the Hero.
Protagonist – President Snow/The Capital/The Games
The man behind the games, and who makes several threats and deals with Katniss is President Snow. Their relationship is interesting, he could easily order her killing but chooses not to. He is frightened by her lack of compliance with the capital, and perhaps a little jealous. He cannot get rid of her and risk rebellion by the other states, but he also cannot seem to control her into doing what he wants. He is a source of fear in her life, he even has his own calling card to intimidate her in the form of a rose.
The Games themselves are also the protagonist of the piece, they keep the story going, forcing the Hero to endure hardship after hardship. They seek to Kill all but one of contestants, and the game seems unfairly set against Katniss (the Hero) at several points within the story.
Mentor – Haymitch
He is literally supposed to be their mentor for the games, as a former contestant. He defies the normal fit of mentor, with his flaw, he is an alcoholic. Nevertheless he forges a strong, somewhat bitter relationship with Katniss and Peeta. He guides them through training for the games and acts as a mentor guiding their interaction with the capitol once the games are over.
Sidekick – Peeta Melark
Another complex relationship. I’ve said Peeta is the sidekick because he works to help Katniss stay alive throughout the games at any cost. However he is not purely the sidekick, as he is actually in love with her. He is also perhaps a Hero figure too, as he often rescues Katniss and believes in the good in people.
Lover – Gale/Peeta
Gale is the man that Katniss really loves from back home. They spend hours as young adults learning to hunt in the woods. He emerges as her lover in the series of novels, but again he is a darker character. He knowns Katniss is somewhat torn between him and Peeta.
Joker/Fool – Caesar
I wasn’t 100% sure who fulfilled the archetype of Fool or Joker. But I suppose Caesar does to some degree. He’s the face of the Hinger Games show as the presenter, he has a ridiculous flamboyant appearance. He is also entirely at the mercy of the games producer and the capital, a fool, not wise enough to make a stand. He seems to make light of the gruesome reality of a tv-show in which the contestants hunt each other down to the death.
Sibling – Prim/Rue
Katniss’s literal sister is Prim. She occupies a lot of Katniss’s inner world and is her motivation for survival. However Rue, a younger contestant of the Games represents a surrogate sister for Katniss. Katniss mourns her death in a manner like that of a loved one or sibling.
Damsel – Prim/Rue
I’ve called Prim/Rue joint Damsel’s because in the story Katniss enter’s into the games to save her sister from them, her sister is effectively the damsel she is protecting. But once inside the games she finds herself drawn to saving Rue, a young girl who is at risk from the older, stronger contestants. Rue becomes the secondary damsel in distress literally when she is captured in a net and Katniss rescues her.
Victim – All the participants in the games/ those under control of the capitol.
One of the things I wanted to improve following my first assignment (and in general) was how much exposure I had to contemporary art. I visited the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham to see Fiona Banner’s Scroll down and Keep Scrolling, in November and haven’t been to any exhibition’s since.
I wanted to take a more planned approach to see if that would help me increase my visiting of places. So I’m going to make a note of exhibitions I’d like to visit and try and plan in when to do so. I will factor in things like travel, cost, my interest levels (and health) in deciding what to visit and when.
I am familiar with the work of Johnny Hannah through the collective St.Jude’s Prints. Johnny Hannah seems to be influenced by folk art in his style. I want to see his exhibition ‘Main Street’ at the Yorkshire Sculpture park, partly because I’ve never seen his work up close, outside of on a screen. I like the concept that you can take a stroll down a street with shop fronts or logo’s all designed by the one person but also unique, the website describes the exhibit as a “vintage inspired homage to the independent trader”.
I wasn’t familiar with the work of American Artist Kaws until I saw a clip on the BBC news app talking about his exhibition at the Park. He’s created these giant cartoon figures which loom obscurely against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Countryside. Having grown up with pop culture, I think it would be really interesting to see these characters or shapes we associate with the screen as actual solid giant figures in our world.
I’m also intrigued to see how he’s moved from the medium of graffiti into a variety of mediums, such as painting, screen printing and sculpture.
This exhibition features a series of upcoming artists, “Marie Lund, Rallou Panagiotou and Mary Ramsden who use painting and sculpture to give new meanings to the everyday.” I’ve not seen the work of these artists before but was drawn by the concept of giving new meaning to the mundane. I’m interested to see how/if they’ve altered our perception of everyday life.
I’m not sure if I will manage to see this exhibition but it seems fun. It’s focuses on well known children’s book illustrations and tries to bring them to life in an interactive way. Although aimed a children it also suggests it should appeal to those interested in illustration, which is where I come in!
The Herbert is my local gallery, based in Coventry. It’s exciting to see that they will be displaying this series of modern day tapestry’s by Grayson Perry. I’m not entirely sure I like Perry’s work, but I want to take the opportunity to see it up close and personal before I make any decision on whether I enjoy it or not. I think it’s also going to be good to see how he’s used a medium which is so often associated with the past or stately homes etc.
So I’ve looked at my calendar and put in a few different ideas for dates to visit some of the exhibitions:
Visit Yorkshire Sculpture Park: 19th February
Visit Tate Britain& London Print Studio: 18th March
Visit Herbert: 27th April
a. The Herefordshire Landscape by Elizabeth Barret Browning – Purely provokes a sense of place:
Heavy use of descriptive imagery which evokes countryside or farm land: “Hills, vales woods”, “cattle grazing in the watered vales”, “smell of orchards”.
Use of repetition to emphasise housing as place ” cottage-chimney’s…cottage-gardens”.
Use of sensory imagery, in particular smell , which is often a strong link for people to certain place or moment in time or associated with certain belongings or physical locations: “cottage-gardens smelling everywhere, confused with the smell of orchards”.
b. Slough by John Betjeman – Makes a social comment about progress and place;
Makes strong negative connection between progress and it’s affect on place of slough. This is evident as he invites destruction on the town of slough; “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!…Swarm over, Death….”
He also makes a particular point for the destruction of that which seems to represent industrialisation or modernisation “Come, bombs and blow to smithereens, those air conditioned, bright canteens”.
Repetition of the word “Tinned” adds to the sense of frustration or claustrophobia.
Use of the phrase “Tinned minds, Tinned breath”, imagery of trapped thoughts or function of people, is in juxtaposition to the freedom or open space touched upon early by the mention of ” grass to graze a cow”.
c. The Lost Land by Evan Boland – Speaks about place in relation to identity and exile;
It’s clear there’s a sense of affection and heartbreak at the loss of this land, even the description of Dublin bay “it’s rocky sweep” seems romantic and nostalgic.
There’s imagery associated with exile “backing out on the mailboat at twilight”, the process seems like it’s in haste and hidden due to being last in the evening.
Use of “shadows falling…the darkness coming in fast” – darkness as an image for ultimate cut off, you cannot see anything in the dark. Adds to sense of swift exit, and finality of the move.
Sense of identity tied to the place is clear in language associated with attachment “everything they had to leave, and would love forever?”
Description of lost land as “all the names I know for a lost land: Ireland. Absence. Daughter” – implies physical loss of land, e.g. Ireland, but also incompleteness and lack of identity, ‘absence’. Also strong emotional loss suggested by the word ‘Daughter’.
I’m waiting for a guide to Post-Modernism to arrive in the post, so currently I don’t feel massively confident about distinguishing different era’s or styles of Poetry. However I’ve done a little research into more contemporary poetry.
I came across Popshot Magazine which combines Poems, Short-Stories & Flash Fiction with Illustration. I thought this was a good place to find some poems to check their use of poetic devices. I also took a look at the Poetry Foundation website and a chose a poem based on the subject of ‘Autumn’ to find examples of poetic devices.
Analysis of Poems:
I have one book poetry which is a collection of William Blake’s poems. I wanted to look into one of his poems as an example of poetry from a different era, the 1800’s but also of a different feel.
Analysis of an extract from a novel:
In the extract taken from F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night , he makes use of personification to add to the emotion or drama of the incidents that happen to the characters. It aids the imagery and reinforces the perspective of the lead character Rosemary.
Sarah Kay is a poet, or spoken word poet, and teacher from New York. During the Ted talk above she discusses how she approaches teaching poetry, in particular spoken poetry, which involves performance. I think it’s interesting to see the rise in this form of creative expression, I always found it easier to engage with a story if it were read aloud or visualised in some form.
She also mentioned a technique she used to help people write their own poem’s, she asks them to list 3 – 10 things they know to be true and then explore one of those as a subject area.
Sarah Kay performance poetry:
Listening to their performances I could pick out fairly consistent use of Rhyming couplets, Metaphors, Repetition of phrases or single words, assonance.
Mostly I just enjoy their subject matter, it’s refreshing to hear poetry that isn’t self absorbed or exploring the darkest parts of life, repeatedly.
Using Sarah Kay’s Method – 10 Things I know to be True
I first came across Kate Tempest during an episode of Artsnight, which was looking into poetry, particularly how contemporary poetry was breaking the stereotype of poetry being ‘high cultured’ or of a certain class.
For my own personal interest it’s also interesting to see someone exploring Spoken word poetry from a Christian or Discipleship perspective. Using poetry to explore religion is nothing new, I certainly remember reading William Blake poems at A-Level. But I find that this format feels fresher, there’s something different in hearing and seeing the poem play out.
Considering it’s form as a piece is interesting; it is poetry and yet there’s a story told in the visuals alongside it; in this case someone preparing a meal, which reinforces the message which has been spoken. I wonder do we live in a generation which cannot just hear something and understand it, do we always need visuals to connect to the meaning of a piece?
That’s not a criticism of the piece of the visual, I think both tie together more a question or statement about creative expression today.
Writing my own poem’s using Poetic Devices & Sarah Kay’s method:
Granny is the cheekiest old lady I’ve ever known
When my granny was three,
Or so she tells me,
She used to steal vegetables from her father’s garden
When she was sixteen,
She was living the dream.
Being paid to sell bananas,
From a green grocers shop.
At the age of three,
I sat on her knee,
And laughed whilst she farted repeatedly.
When I was sixteen,
I took her out to the zoo,
She got confused and used the men’s loos.
I introduced her to someone,
My husband to – be,
To him she took a fancy,
As it came to goodbye,
With a glint in her eye,
She kissed him on the lips and not the cheek!
And that is why,
My granny is the cheekiest old lady I have ever known.
I think I managed to use rhyme, repetition and some consonance, but not much else, so I tried to write another poem using more of the devices…
Joy is not the same as Happiness
Happiness has haste in its DNA,
It waits for no one,
It wants what it wants, now!
Her favourite phrase is ‘me, me, me’.
Joy is different entirely,
She waits out the storm patiently,
Not driven by emotions or circumstances,
She lends her ways to others.
Happiness is hungry even whilst eating a feast,
Joy can withstand the harshest famine,
They have as much in common as night and day.
I think I managed to use; alliteration, assonance, personification, repetition, rhyme, simile. I’m not perfect a poetry so I think that I’ve done well to at least try and make use of the poetic devices for this exercise.
I read the poem Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas a few times before listening to the following readings:
I found that reading the poem, even reading it aloud to myself it came across differently when read by different people. Dylan Thomas’s reading of the poem has a lilting melodious quality. At moments during the reading it sounds more like it’s being sung, it reminded me of the sound of chanting or spoken liturgy in catholic churches. However listening to the reading by Richard Burton the poem feels more sombre and dramatic, it takes on a mournful quality.I actually prefer hearing the poem read aloud to reading it and trying to grasp it in my mind.
Notes on the poem:
I think the poem is quite wistful, it captures a sense of longing for care-free days, capturing the beauty of rural life and the experience of youth. I think it takes the reader along a journey from the delight of the freedom and carelessness of youth to the sadness of the affect of time or ageing.
The poem is rich with poetic devices, Dylan uses personification so frequently in relation to ‘time’ that it becomes a character within the poem; “time let me hail and climb. Golden in the heyday of his eyes…Time let me play and be Golden in the mercy of his means”. Time becomes this altering force that impedes upon Dylan’s freedom; “Time held me green and dying. Though I sang in my chains like the sea”. The use of frequent assonance and alliteration lends the poem a song like quality, you feel the rise and fall of words like the rising and falling of notes in a tune; “house high hay….simple stars…wander white with…windfall light”.
The use of repetition particularly of the words green and golden add to the theme of time and place. Green being a symbol of youth and fresh life, and golden being a symbol of favour or good times and also the sun, a way that we measure the passing of time; “happy as the grass was green…Golden in the heyday of his eyes….Golden in the mercy of his means…fire green as grass…children green and golden…”. In the final lines that imagery is used as a juxtaposition, “Time held me green and dying”, no longer green and golden, green sat next to the word dying takes on other connotations, I think of mould or decay, and reinforces that idea of the passing of time or ageing.
The poem explores place guiding the reader on a journey through rural life, we ride along with the poet as he “rode to sleep the owls…bearing the night away”. We have this picture of rural life “apple boughs…green grace…the farm was home…”, rural practices/farming, “I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves sang to my horn….the hay fields high as the house”. The inclusion of animals associated with the countryside completes this picture of idyllic rural life; “the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold…the owls were bearing the night away…blessed among the stables the nightjars…lamb white days”.
There is also some religious imagery which seems oddly placed, “And the Sabbath rang slowly, In the pebbles of the holy streams…fields of praise”. But most oddly I find some imagery relating to birth or pregnancy, “it was Adam and maiden, The sky gathered again. And the sun grew round that very day. So it must have been after the birth of the simple light…”. I wonder if the imagery of birth or pregnancy is to enhance the idea of youth, and also to remind us of the inevitability of death.
The ‘speaker’ of the poem seems important, the poem is based around the speakers experience and feelings it seems at the passing of time and of his youth. His views are generally clear and if not plain they are inferred heavily through the use of the poetic devices already mentioned.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – re-writing the narrator:
First Person Narration:
“I pushed the cart and my boy and I carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case we had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that I used to watch the road behind us. I shifted the pack on my shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley , I saw the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and Precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? I said. My boy nodded. We set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, we were each others worlds.”
Second Person Narration:
“You pushed the cart, you and the boy carrying knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case you had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that you used to watch the road behind you. You shifted the pack higher on your shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley you saw a still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore there was a burden of dead reads. Are you okay? You asked. The boy nodded. You set out together along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, you were each other’s entire worlds.”
If McCarthy had chosen the third person limited point of view, think about the difference between telling this story from the boy’s POV or the man’s.
It could be really interesting to see the story from the boys point of view, just to see his emotional response to what seems to be a tense or dangerous world. But I wonder if the world would seem limited by the boys vocabulary, would we end up feeling like we missed the depth provided by an adult perspective?
I think told from the man’s perspective we would miss some of the description or scene setting provided by the omniscient narration. The extract says that the man and the boy were ‘each other’s world entire’, so I feel that from the man’s perspective we hear a lot of thoughts and considerations for the boy and visa versa.
What impact does changing the narrative angle have on the story? Why do you think McCarthy decided to use an omniscient narrator?
I’m surprised by how different the story feels told from different narrative angles. The first person narrative feels very close, like you’re up seeing everything through the eyes of the man and it makes the story feel a little predictable. The second person narration seems to have the effect of adding more distance, it reads as though you’re hearing an older person re-living or recounting a past experience. I think the effect is that it makes you less involved in or concerned with how the story unfolds. I wonder if McCarthy chose to use the omniscient narrator because it gives you a broad sweep of the landscape or things around the characters whilst closely tracking their movement. I think it gives the effect of watching their development intently, perhaps because you care but without getting so close as to intervene. I think the slight distancing from the inner thoughts or emotions or perspective of the characters helps the reader to keep tolerating a story set in such a bleak world.
I wanted to make sure I documented my notes for the exercise, which was essentially a close reading of an extract of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
I started by annotating the extract before starting to make my own rough notes on the questions from my work book:
And here are my notes:
I decided to try and chose a piece of post-modernist fiction to pick an extract for my assignment. I know Kazuo Ishiguro’s name was mentioned earlier in the workbook as an example of post-modernist fiction so it seemed like a good starting place.
I read his series of short stories, Nocturnes, and the novel An Artist of the Floating World. I felt that An Artist of the Floating World dealt more closely with themes of time and than the stories of, Nocturnes (which focussed heavily on the theme of music and time), so chose to select an extract from that for my essay.
I found it difficult to chose a section from the novel that would have enough substance for my essay so selected two extracts and did a brief annotation/analysis roughly to help me decide. You can see these below:
I chose the second longer extract as the basis for my essay because I felt it had more examples of imagery, poetic devices, and was a good sample of the style of prose throughout the novel. I read the whole novel before picking the extract, so I found it hard to keep my comments to the extract itself given that I knew the trajectory of the story. The style of the novel was entirely new to me, I guess I’m more familiar with modern authors as opposed to post-modern. So it took awhile to get used to the way the book drifts in and out of the past and present day, but I thought this was highly effective in giving a sense of the character trying to gain sense of his past in the midst of a rapidly modernising world around him. I also found that reading Christopher Butler’s, Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, helped with understanding the paradigm the author may well have written in.
I allowed myself some time to go back and look at the questions from exercise 3&4 and used those as platforms in my physical learning log to answer some questions about the extract. I found doing this before typing the essay helped me to decided what I wanted to say and made connecting all the points together far simpler. In terms of the essay itself I managed 1,292 words, which was less than the recommended 1,500. But I felt like to try and meet the 1,500 word limit I would either be repeating myself or start to make commentary on the rest of the novel. Neither of those seemed like good things to do, so I kept it slightly below the word count. Hopefully this was a wise choice!?
Looking back on the creative writing part of the course as a whole and my essay I think it’s clear to see that I have incorporated a degree of what I learned into the content of the assignment. Even my choice of author, Kazuo Ishiguro, and novel, An Artist of the Floating World, shows some effort on my part to engage actively with the theme of time/place from a post-modernist perspective. His writing is not a style I am familiar with or massively fond of so I pushed myself out of my preferences to try and fulfil the course requirements.
I think I worked hard to make use of literary terms learnt earlier in the course in the progress of my essay. The most obvious example of this is the referral to poetic devices and the effect they have on the shaping of the theme’s of time/place. I think I swayed towards referring to the theme of time a little too heavily, as I struggled to expand on the theme of place from the extract. In my preparation for the essay it’s also clear that I put into practice methods like annotating extracts and picking out poetic devices learnt in earlier exercises. Perhaps what was most influential to my reading of the extract was the forth exercise on The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In particular I think I used what I’d learnt from that exercise to shape my analysis of the style of prose and the form of narration. The preparation of the exercise helped me to understand how an author might manipulate or play with our sense of narration or the structure of the prose to dramatic effect.
However I do think I struggled to utilise what I’d learned about Aristotle’s theory of the four elements in my essay. I think I explored theme and expression but didn’t expand massively on character. Looking back now I wonder how I would ‘fit’ the character from the extract into a archetype, he doesn’t seem to be neatly fitted into any of the one’s I looked at earlier in the course. Perhaps to improve the essay I could spend time considering the kind of Character presented by the extract and explore how he seems to break with the tradition of character archetypes. I think towards the end of the essay I began to touch upon (admittedly briefly), the plot, asking questions about ‘why’ we were seeing the world the character described and making some commentary on the greater context of Japan. As with Character analysis I think I could’ve given greater time to my analysis of the plot but struggled to in such a short extract. I could’ve taken more time to make a more expansive commentary on the plot.
So overall I think my essay shows I’ve learnt from the exercises along the course, but that I could do with being a bit more thorough in putting everything I’ve learnt into practice.