Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Another episode of "General to Specific": A Writing Exercise; Also, Abstract to Concrete

First Go-Round: WhatEvs. In writing, specificity allows writing to reflect the uniqueness of things and ideas in the world. Small variations from a type will change a caricature or cliche into a character or inventive phrase (and thus a new idea). There is something to be said for simplicity, of course; but if the aim is not to go for simplicity, then specificity is a good tool.

This exercise is also a way to generate ideas quickly. Start with one sentence that is general or abstract (or both). Rewrite the sentence and add a level of specificity or concreteness (or both).

Rewrite that sentence and increase the specificity or concreteness again. Carry on until you can't take it anymore, or, better yet, until you think you have a tiny narrative worth expanding on.

1. Things are here.
2. Boxes arrive at the building.
3. Square cardboard cases trickled in to the factory.
4. Dishwashers in their cardboard boxes trickled in at a rate of two a day to the factory.
5. The recalled dishwashers, some of them re-packed in their original boxes by their anal, angry owners, trickled in at a rate of two a day to the factory in Anaheim.

Who knew that I had an interest in  dishwashers and in Anaheim? But apparently so.


Second Go-Round: General to Specific. I am going to do this exercise again, except this time I am going to try to distinguish between General to Specific and Abstract to Concrete. "General" means "applicable to many things or circumstances." "Specific" means "applicable to a small subset of things or circumstances."

"Abstract" is not the same as general, not really. "Abstract" means"related to the nonmaterial world, to ideas or concepts." "Concrete" means "related to the material world, such as what can be understood by the five senses." (ESP not included.) That is, it's possible to have an abstraction that is general or specific, or to have a generality that is abstract or concrete.

I am starting with the same sentence as above, but I will force myself to go from general to specific and stave off any urges to think about abstraction or concreteness. This will be hard to do. My model sentence is suitably bland to have it both ways in the general-specific or abstract-concrete spectrums.  I will also force myself to keep as closely as possible to my silly dishwashers and Anaheim, though I won't kill myself if the sentences deviate.

1. Things are here.
2.  Elements exist in this region.
3. Non-continguous monads co-exist in this field.
4. Non-continguous monads of the phenomenal world form the content of this discursive field.
5. Discrete words about human experience constitute the vocabulary of legal discourse.

This was difficult. I felt like I was making things up, and I couldn't really follow my dishwasher-Anaheim model. But I did avoid having sentences that deal with the sensory world, more or less.

Third Go-Round: Abstract to Concrete.

1. Things are here.
2.  Objects exist nearby.
3. Boxes sit one metre away.
4. Cardboard boxes are stored one metre away from Bindi.
5. Cardboard dishwasher boxes hunker down one metre away from Bindi's office in the Anaheim factory.

PS: I kind of did this exercise in a different post.

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