Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Power of Alliteration and Parallel Construction

Behold the symbol of wedlock. The perfect circle of love, the unbroken union of these souls united here today. May you both remain faithful to this symbol of true love. . . .

I take as my wedded partner to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

For as much as [we] have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company of friends and family and have given and pledged their promises to each other and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring and by joining hands....

The exchange of rings during a traditional wedding ceremony often includes the vows above. They are, of course, powerful because of the commitment two people make as they enter into great unknowns: their future in love.

These words are made more powerful by the use of alliteration, noted in the passage by underlined words. The repetition of an initial sound facilitates both rhythm and emphasis.

Power also derives from parallel construction. In the second paragraph, infinitive phrases and a series of prepositional phrases using antonyms focuses the message and the mind upon the solemnity of the vow being spoken. In the third paragraph, a series of verb phrases, each beginning with have, achieves the same effects.

Reading Challenge:

Read previous posts about alliteration and parallel construction.

Writing Challenge:

Transform your own writing by rewriting a passage to use alliteration and parallel construction.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Antonym Power to Shape Our Common Vow

Some couples write their own vows, and some use beautiful words written by others. Most of us speak some or all of the traditional vows including the words below:

To have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health . . . .

Signifying 30 years together
These words have power because so many of us have spoken them and heard them throughout our lives, but some of their power derives from the word choices. They convey the light and shadow, the ease and challenge according to our wealth and health. These juxtaposed conditions made sharp by antonyms return to us and remind us of our responsibilities no matter what Fate throws our way.

Reading Challenge:

Read for antonyms in everything you read this week. Note that when they have been used deftly, the passage is more memorable and pleasing.

Writing Challenge:

Revise a passage from your own writing to make use of antonym power.

Signifying 60 years together

Connye Griffin creates My Writing and Editing Coach.

She also writes Our Eyes Upon Missouri.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Antonym Power

Life is a game of balances. Work, play, Walk, sleep. Stimulant, narcotic.
My snug skin, my cosy mind, the gentle hum of me.
(Yates, Christopher J. Black Chalk. New York: Picador, 2013. Kindle Ed.)

Christopher Yates uses antonyms powerfully in the passage above from his 2013 novel, Black Chalk. He juxtaposes work against its opposite, play. Walk parries sleep, and stimulant contrasts with narcotic.

Six words--six antonyms--sum up the human experience. Work, walk, and stimulant are the energy of each day whereas play, sleep, and narcotic are its lethargy.

Six more words sum up a human, snug inside the largest organ of the body, cosy within the confines of its most powerful organ, each working in tandem to keep the machine of me humming. The external organ, skin, and internal organ, mind [brain], function as antonyms, too. On the other hand, their modifiers--snug and cosy--are synonyms conveying warmth and comfort, conditions in which a human may thrive or, as Yates writes, gently hum like a well-oiled, carefully and cautiously maintained machine.

Yates’ deliberate word choices render this passage as poetry and elevate it to one of the most memorable in his novel, Black Chalk.

Light and shadow are the antonyms of Nature.
They compel us, they draw us onward, they arrest our thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Al Griffin whose work can be viewed on
Fine Art America, SmugMug, and Al Griffin Photography.

Reading Challenge:

 Read Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates.

Writing Challenge:

Transform a passage from your journals or first drafts into a more memorable passage by choosing antonyms to emphasize ideas and hammer words home.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pathetic Fallacies: Hollywood Loves 'Em; Stephen King Spins 'Em

Kenneth Branagh’s film, Much Ado about Nothing, is a delightful romp. I enjoyed sharing the play, then Branagh’s film with students. I also use the film to teach film tropes, including pathetic fallacy.

Branagh employs pathetic fallacy each time Don John, the Duke’s bastard brother and all-round bad guy, enters a scene. Thunder rolls and lightning cracks, suggesting Nature itself recognizes the storm the follows in the wake of Don John.

A tried and sometimes clich├ęd trope used in horror fiction is an atmosphere of doom and gloom, especially in the genre’s eighteenth and nineteenth century incarnations, Gothic literature.

Powerful, ominous clouds overhead portend doom, illustrating a
pathetic fallacy in literature. Photo courtesy of Al Griffin Photography.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has many gloomy, oppressive settings. While experimenting and studying, Frankenstein works in an isolated and isolating lab, often described as dark to match his own partnership with dark scientific deeds. When the creature awakes, he moves about in the dark and cold. When he is cast out, he suffers storms and cold while struggling to find shelter, food, and most important, affection. When Frankenstein pursues his creature, he does so through the frozen north where Nature is unforgiving and men are poorly equipped to survive.

Stephen King, on the other hand, often turns this trope found in horror fiction on its head. In Finder’s Keeper’s, terrible people commit terrible acts while the light shines and passersby simply go about the business of their routines without any fear or dread. Some people are mortally wounded without altering Nature or alarming witnesses.

Such an unremarkable atmosphere, absent the doom and gloom trope, underscores the horror. Monsters may have the faces of our neighbors, and horrific deeds occur even as the sun shines bright and warm.

Reading Challenge:

Read any of the three works cited for this post: Branagh’s film Much Ado about Nothing, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Stephen King’s Finder’s Keepers.  Take note of the atmosphere or mood developed in each.

Writing Challenge:

Invent an atmosphere of doom and gloom for a moment when humans are afraid, hurt, or sad.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.
She also writes for Our Eyes Upon Missouri.