Zooming in on Small Details
J.K. Rowling spoke at a graduation ceremony for Harvard Graduates. This is what she chose to speak about:
- Rowling wanted to teach people that it is best to face hard tasks, not avoid them.
- Some people think of work-especially hard work as a negative thing, but we don’t have to be those people.
- The best writers or runners are not just born with incredible talent. The people who become pros are people who figure out how to work at it.
We have started to try techniques from our mentor text author in our own writing – this is a solid first step!
Today I want to teach you how to use your to deliberately practice the techniques and skills you want to see in your writing.
Imagine a basketball player practicing layups in a gym, or a ceramic artist practicing his craft at a pottery wheel. Now, imagine yourself, practicing a writing skill. Instead of using gym equipment or pottery tools, you use your notebook, and your notebook becomes filled with your efforts to do that one thing better, better, better, over and over.
Let’s take a look at a mentor text:
(Author has climbed a tree in a park even though her mother warned her not to)
“Don’t look down, just keep climbing-you’re almost to the top,” Bobby urged. I swallowed and snuck one quick look.
1.) First attempt:
Lydia was still standing at the bottom of the tree, holding my dark, blue sandals with one hand and shielding her eyes, with the other, as she looked up at me.
- These are tiny details but not something someone would notice who is high stuck up in a tree.
2.) Second attempt:
The tree swayed slightly, and I tightened my grasp on the trunk. A rough piece of bark dug sharply into my forearm, but I didn’t dare move.
“I think I need help getting down,” I shouted, my voice high and tight. I thought about my mother’s clear warning to stay out of the trees that bordered the playground. This must be why.
“Hold on, ” Bobby called. He circled slowly around the tree and then walked towards Lydia, talking to her in a low voice. I couldn’t hear him over the rustle of the tree’s leaves. Suddenly he grabbed Lydia’s arm and pulled her away from the tree. “Run!” Bobby commanded, and they made a dash for the gate.
- The author here has really tried Howe’s technique of zooming in on the small details. To do that the author really had to put herself back in the park and replay the scene in her head.
Courtney noticed that Howe does little bits of explaining between the characters talking. This is called narrating in-between the character’s dialogue. Courtney worked on showing more of what she was thinking and how her mom was acting by adding lines.
Try these techniques that the mentor author has used and incorporate them into your writing.
Use this image to organize your progress similarly on the bottom of your flash draft.
Zooming in on Small Details (Strategy #1)
- You will keep track of all your revisions on the bottom to show your steps. It will show up in your draft and on the bottom in pink
- Practice the strategy you want to try in as many places as possible.
- Do it purposefully though! For example, don’t just throw any old sensory details into drafts at random places… add sensory details that make sense to the moment and the narrator’s point of view.
- Use the How to Write Powerful Narratives as well!
- Membean Quiz tomorrow!
- Fishbowl Group #1 Written portion and book review
- Fishbowl Group #2-4: Keep reading