Monday, November 12, 2018

Poetic Alliteration

By C.M. Mayo

As of this year the second Monday of the month is dedicated to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. 


Poetic alliteration is one of the many techniques you can use to make your writing more vivid and powerful. The definiton of alliteration: "The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words."

From (of all things) a movie review by Desson Howe in the Washington Post:
"There he is, in all his glory, Brad Pitt, that beautiful, chiseled chunk of celebrity manhood. You want him? Go see Fight Club. You want action, muscle, and atmosphere? You want boys bashing boys in bloody, living color? Fight Club is your flick, dude." 

To start with, we have "chiseled chunk" -- ch and then ch

In the fourth sentence we have "action, muscle, and atmosphere"-- ah and ah

Then "boys bashing boys in bloody, living color"-- b, b, b, and b

Then "Fight Club is your flick, dude" -- f and f

The point: the sound of the words-- alliteration-- reinforces the meaning.

Here are some more examples:

"...hold on with a bull-dog grip and chew and choke as much as possible"-- Letter, President Lincoln to General Grant
"When somebody threatens me, he says, I usually tell them to pack a picnic and stand in line." -- Mikey Weinstein quoted in Marching As to War by Alan Cooperman
"A competitor once described [mining engineer Frank Holmes] as 'a man of considerable personal charm, with a bluff, breezy, blustering, buccaneering way about him' -- Daniel Yergin,  The Prize
"Small heart had Harriet for visiting" -- Jane Austen, Emma

As I cannot repeat often enough, as a writer, your best teachers are the books you have already read and truly loved-- the books that made you want to write your own. (These books or may not get the Seal of Approval from your English professor-- but never mind. Some academics may be artists, and some artists academics, but in general they are creatures as different from one another as a coyote and a horse.)

To repeat: As a writer, your best teachers are the books you have already read and truly loved. Pull one of those beloved books off your bookshelf, have a read-through, see where and how the author uses alliteration. Or not?

Once you recognize a technique you can often spot it in, say, a newspaper article, a biography, or an advertisement. More about reading as a writer here.

Help yourself to more resources for writers on my Resources for Writers page.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Jane Austen's EMMA: A Few Reactions

EMMA by Jane Austen
By C.M. Mayo

I have just finished reading Jane Austen's masterpiece, Emma. A few reactions:

The Ur-soap opera. Esque. Deceptively simple-- it's a symphony of complexity. A sophisticated and cement-sturdy narrative structure. Our master of suspense fiction!

Emma is understandably popular for so many readers, and yet understandably unappealing for so many others. Have you read it, and did you like it?-- a litmus test for so many things... that correlate with other things...

Above all, and astonishingly, Emma manages to be poetic and vivid with only the barest of barebones descriptions. Flaubert's Madame Bovary it is not.

Austen treats both her characters, even the deeply foolish ones, and her readers with charm and diginity-- a dignity rarely seen in fiction (and especially these days). Austen has the sight of a goddess, and a heart as big as England-- England of the early 19th century, that is.

I appreciated Emma as I did Pride and Prejudice. The latter I read in highschool. For years I could not fathom why I had been obliged to read all that nattering about who was going to marry whom. When I read P & P in my thirties, however, I saw it with different eyes. Call me an Austenite.

PS USD 32,500 will get you a 1816 first edition. There were 2,000 copies paid for, ahem, by the author.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.