Forums Writing Chapter 2 Assignment 2: tell a story?

Assignment 2: tell a story?

In the “devils are in the details” assignment, it states that we shouldn’t be thinking of it like a story. I have been writing the details down and so far have done the walk twice, I don’t know how to put it all together though if I don’t write it as though it were a story?
The other small problem I have is that I do have to leave some details out, such as road names etc as I cannot read them, or more specifically they are not named in my neighbourhood but numbered with sequences like 13-2-1. Also I am not that clued up when it comes to the names of plants or trees etc, do most people try to research these online in order to use the more concrete details?

Thanks everyone! Sorry for my silly questions but I am not a writer and have a feeling like I am doing everything wrong!

View Profile 2014-03-26 02:42:32 PDT

I’m not the most experienced writer myself, but I can offer my thoughts… I think if you are very specific about your land marks and observations, the street names won’t be as important, especially if you maybe make some off hand reference the streets bearing numbers instead of names.  It’s a detail I didn’t know about, but found interesting.  That being said, I can see the problem with cluttering up a story with a lot of arbitrary looking digits.  Personally, I love reading about the flora and fauna in places I have not been, so mentioning specific names of plants, trees, or even weather phenomenons (is there a local name for heat, cold, smog etc?) really grabs my attention as a reader.

As far as the overall structure, I think a plain narrative can be a great read even if, and sometimes because, each sentence stands alone.  I might be totally off, but I think part of the purpose of the assignment is to make us hyper focused on our own descriptions of what we see, so that each observation can be brought to life for the reader.  Long comment short, I don’t think a ‘story format’ is really necessary.  But that’s just one person’s opinion, and I’m no editor!

Hopefully this is helpful?  I figure we’re all a little shy and nervous about speaking out right now, but I love to hear other people’s opinions about what I am thinking/writing, because even though we aren’t all editors we are all readers, and that’s who we’re writing to.  Anyways, good luck!

View Profile 2014-03-26 09:03:54 PDT

I think the purpose of the early assignments is to get us familiar with temporality.  Just taking the place that is really familiar to you and turning it into something that gives the reader that same sense, having not been there before.  I’m far from a botanist or anything myself, research never hurts but I don’t think you need to get too crazy with Latin names or Darwin-esque descriptors.  I found myself over thinking some of the assignments as well and it made it more difficult to write.  Deviating from how I would naturally write to try to cater to what I thought I should be writing.  I feel its important to go with what flows natural for you in order to get a grasp on that coveted “voice” we’re all searching for as writers.

If you don’t know the specific names of plants, streets, or whatever I’d suggest just using adjectives and descriptions as to what about them stands out to you.  The sights, smells, and sounds of your walk are what’s most important to bringing temporality to the reader.  I hope this helps a little.  I don’t know if its necessarily the right way to go about it, but it’s how I tackled it and had fun making the finished piece.  Good luck!

View Profile 2014-03-26 22:02:41 PDT


Ah – the super impossible to read street names and numbers of Tokyo 🙂 I have gotten SO lost trying to navigate that city.

The advice above is good. If you don’t know what the plants are called, it might be a good exercise for you to ask your neighbors and then figure out what they are in English, just for your knowledge. That might take some time though so for this assignment, its ok if you just try to show us what they look like. If you don’t know the names of streets, or if there are no names which is sometimes the case, play with Google maps to see if you can learn the names or just tell us what you call them. There is a street in my city in Japan that all the Americans call Blue Street. Because it’s blue. I have no idea what the real name is.

Justin is right, the purpose of the assignment is to get you familiar with describing the temporality of a place. This week we tell you to not focus on the plot, the story, because we really want you to focus on small, concrete, sensory details. The story is that you are taking a walk, let that free you to really hone in on what you see around you.

Does this help? Please let me know if you have any questions!

View Profile 2014-03-31 18:53:21 PDT

Taking a walk is a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. I agree with Justin and Morgan. Since I don’t take photographs because I want to strengthen the image and sound and scent collection parts of my brain, I’ll take a little notebook with me almost everywhere and keep notes.  As far as technical names, I’m far more intrigued by “an ivory-white bird with an orange and black mask” than I am by the Latin name. Thanks for a great question.  ms

View Profile 2014-03-31 19:31:14 PDT