Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nine Happy Accidents

I'm blogging about happy accidents. Again.

Margie Lawson's online Deep Edits course has taught me so much these past three weeks that I'm startled at my writing ignorance prior to this class. It took me an absurd amount of lectures to gain enough courage to re-read my only publishing credit, The Lost Highway. In light of these new editing techniques, would my prose suck as much wind as a Hoover Deluxe? Would I have missed countless opportunities to backload sentences? Did I even attempt rhetorical devices such as Anaphora and Litotes? Were there any SAPS or power lines?

Before your eyes glaze over (mine did about day three), you probably know some of these techniques intuitively. Every craft book ever written about fiction advises writers to be voracious readers for a reason. In reading, we internalize techniques of the greats who have come before us. We may not know that redundant phrases such as "stand up" or "burning hot" are called Tautologies, but we know Elmore Leonard wouldn't allow these buggers in his tight, sparse prose.

Last night, I finally opened the bound, unchangeable, forever-kind of snapshot on my primitive publishing journey. I found sentences I would change knowing what I know now, but I also found an astonishing number of tools Margie has added to my figurative toolbox Stephen King talks about in On Writing. With no way of knowing where these gems originated or how they shaped the story's lines into living, breathing moments, I can only consider them an anonymous gift born of time and experience and the rich texture of classic novels archived in my subconscious.

So now, we play a game. Match the rhetorical devices from lines in The Lost Highway to the name your high school English Teacher would have given them:

1) Perfect. Fifty miles from civilization, and he was about to be rescued by Doris Day.
2) Three winged shadows eclipsed the sun, circling him in a halo as tight as chalk marks around a cadaver.
3)The classic, rocket-shaped convertible crawled along the fractured road.
4) He didn't want to stop. Couldn't stop.
5) Her old fashioned mannerisms, her reserved innocence, her optimism blended into the picture of a woman who'd set off in search of love and become lost along the way.
6) Two roads converged on a lost highway.
7) What if he were a psychopath with a preoccupation for gutting women?
8) Doo-wap music blared from the car's speakers
9) He fished an old bus ticket from his front pocket-every number, every detail-as faded and smooth as a wish stone.

a) rhetorical question
b) amplification
c) personification
d) similie
e) onomatopoeia
f) eponym
g) anaphora
h) backloading a sentence
i) epistrophe

To entice your brain to rise to the challenge, I'll send out a signed copy of Love, Texas Style to the first blog reader who correctly matches them all. If you're interested in taking your writing to the next level, NYT bestseller level, check out Margie's phenomenal courses.

Have fun!


Maureen McGowan said...

ooooo I do want to play. And I'm glad you gave the choices to match up to. High school english is a long way back for me...

But why I really meant to comment was that if we read, then we learn a lot of this stuff by osmosis. That said, I've learned so much from some key writing teachers and lectures. Including Margie Lawson.

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Geez, I can't even pronounce some of those words. Can't I just BUY an autographed copy from you? No, really!


Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, a fun challenge! I've been thinking about these--some I know, some I'm stuck on (backloading a sentence??), but I'll send my answers in a private email and you can tell me which ones I missed!

L.A. Mitchell said...

We have a winner!! But don't let that stop you. I'll post the answers with a PHONETIC KEY :) tomorrow.

Pam said...

Hi, LA--I found you from Marilyn Brant's blog and where I froze at the English quiz (Ms. Carlisle would be so disappointed in me), I have fondness for anybody who loves On Writing. I haven't heard of Margie, but know I can always learn, so I'll head over and check her out.

Thanks for letting me play on your blog and best of luck on Love, Texas Style!