Beanery Online Literary Magazine

February 11, 2011

If I Were a Fly on the Wall…Finding a Writing Angle

BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE

IF I WERE A FLY ON THE WALL…FINDING A WRITING ANGLE

     What can a fly tell us about finding an angle in writing?

     Some members of the Beanery Writers Group are having difficulty writing about structures—rather, some of us are. It’s not that we can’t write about a structure. It’s that we have a block that asks What is there to say about a structure? It’s an inanimate object!   

     One genre is descriptive writing. Simply describing.

     Yet we’ve all heard and said If only I could be a fly on the wall… We use that phrase when we anticipate something very interesting is about to occur at a site where we cannot be present…

     If only I were a fly on the wall…

  • what secrets would I see from my vantage point of being unseen on the wall
  • who committed the murder
  • what are the future plans of the main character of the story

     Members of the Beanery Writers Group have officially visited three “structural” sites to practice writing on structures: the Compass Inn, Ligonier Tavern, and Eastwood Inn—all in the Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania. A field trip to the Basilica at St. Vincent College is planned.

     The statement If only I were a fly on the wall… can be used as a tool to find an angle in our writing. Once there is an angle, we will have a direction in your writing, we will know what to include in our piece.

     Fortunately, for two of the places, I myself have answered the question.

     At the Compass Inn, If I were a fly on the wall… I would observe a newlywed widow, moving west from Lehigh Valley to Indiana County via Hempfield Township, during her visit to the Compass Inn

     At the Basilica, If I were a fly on the wall… I would be present when the founder of the Basilica designed the structure, perhaps using St. Joseph’s Church in Munich, Germany, as a model

     Both ideas provide me an angle… the premise…the handle…the concept…the central idea of what I plan to write about the structure. The details are determined from the structure and its history, but the story comes from the answer to the question.

     How can you answer the question If I were a fly on the wall… for any of the structures we have visited or will visit? The answer will give you the angle that will add the focus you need for your writing.

     Although Adair Lara wrote about ways to find angles for essays*, her suggestions might provide insight into our project about writing about structures.

     Lara states that angles lend focus, originality, and appeal to your (writing).

  • An angle always includes an element of surprise..you can’t just blurt out what comes to mind. You need an unexpected way of approaching your subject.  The ease of cooking today can bring you to an examination of the cooking process of earlier days…many items in the structure lead to the common expressions that are common every day (eg. toasters and don’t let the bedbugs bite)
  • Start with the opposite of where your piece will end. For example, how easy it is to heat today’s buildings, leading into the way people kept warm when the structures were built.
  • Make unlikely comparisons.  What similarities are there between today’s hobos and the colonial settlers who created the structures on the frontier?
  • Bring in conflict through opposing viewpoints. People think these are the difficult days, but a friend, who researched lives of the past, points out how much easier we have it today than in the days of western settlement.
  • Highlight divisions or categories. Creating unexpected groupings by dividing people into unusual categories can yield an angle that both lends humor and invites readers as they think which group they belong to. In our case, dividing people into a group who choose the hardness of the frontier to their friend/relative who chooses to remain in the safety of the known back East. Perhaps you can be an observer or participant in your piece—you might even place yourself in one of the categories.
  • Contrast your tone and subject. Write about something you hate as if you love it, or vice versa. Perhaps a resident writes a letter “back home” in a sarcastic manner on how great the life is in the new structure.
  • Be topical. Hitchhike on the news of the day. Gravel roads are in the news. I’m writing a post on how gravel roads were constructed in the 1700s, contrasting them with the gravel roads in my community, Laurel Mountain Boro. Say an older structure in you community burns like kindling. How do you think people kept safe from fire in the colonial structures?

SOURCE

http://writersdigest.com/article/find-an-angle-to-bring-your-subject-to-life/?et_mid=38382&rid=2963161

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ADDITIONAL READING:

ARE WEBSITES (BLOGSITES) BENEFICIAL TO WRITERS?

THE ART OF THE INTERVIEW: Things Writers Should Know

PROTECTING PRIVACY OF PERSONAL DATA ON YOUR COMPUTER

SALLY MARTIN: MUSTANG SALLY’S GUIDE TO WORLD BICYCLE TOURING

WHAT IS THE KEY INDICATOR TO YOUR WRITING SUCCESS?

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