What makes a piece of writing work?

Don’t forget that you’re expected to arrive in class tomorrow with your red pencil sharpened and your thinking cap all lit up to talk about C.J. Chivers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning story, The Fighter.

Here are those elements again from Jack Hart’s “A Writer’s Coach” that I asked you to look at:

  • Force (from verb choice, in particular)
  • Brevity (from verb tense, by avoiding depleted words, too)
  • Clarity (by using shorter sentences, defining terms, re-identifying characters)
  • Rhythm (through the music in the words, the alliteration, the cycles of sound, the “rule of three” and by pacing)
  • Humanity (through scenes, anecdotes, vignettes, that perfect quote)
  • Color (through the well-chosen, telling details and broader description)
  • Voice (oh, that indefinable imprint, that combination of all the others, that makes each of us unique as a writer, if only we could clear away the pomposity, the clutter, the bureaucratese).

And the last criterion for evaluation:

  • How well does the story justify its existence? This should get you thinking about the context the story provides, not just in the form of the good-ol’ nut graf but in other forms. How well does the writer re-connect the specific facts to the broader issue?

Finally, don’t forget to look at the structure. What do you notice about how it’s put together?

See you tomorrow.


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