anonymous said:

In response to "Too much of a good thing". I'm working on a novel and I'm struggling with this balance. It's very heavy on dialogue and An okay amount of narrative and almost no rumination. Its starting to feel like to me like a glorified screenplay. How do I include more rumination and description without making it boring (which is a fear I have that leads me to not write enough of it) ?

Okay, let’s start by putting narrative and dialogue in the category of “active” and description and rumination in the category of “inactive.” The inactive tools tend to get the shaft because most people feel as though neither one moves the story forward. They’re static paragraphs that don’t advance time, and therefore many people perceive them as being useless and boring. You just need to know when and how to use them. If they’re not well placed, then yes, readers will find them boring.

In the midst of an action scene, you’re not going to use a lot of rumination. Ruminating on something is hard when someone is trying to kill you, so a character is likely to stay in the moment, and what you end up with is mostly narrative and dialogue. And that’s okay! But description can make its case in action scenes, because it can bring the action to life. Narrative would be “he pushed me into a table,” while description would be the wet feeling of spilled liquid on his clothes, the sound of bar patrons’ gasps and yells or the sound of glass breaking. Narrative would be the bartender running to the phone to call the cops, but description would be the way his teeth were clenched, fists balled up, or the redness in his skin because he’s so angry. Description like this can add a lot of richness to an otherwise mundane scene.

In contrast, during a verbal argument, rumination is a much better tool to use. As a character debates something, they can be reflecting on what has led them to their particular viewpoint on the issue. If two parents disagree about the way the child is being raised, and one parent insists they need to be more disciplined, the other parent could reflect on the many times discipline landed on their own shoulders, and how easy it is for their partner to make the claim that discipline is needed when they’re not the one that has to discipline them. 

I think one reason people hesitate to use rumination in the midst of an argument is because they feel it “disrupts the scene.” The way to avoid that is to insert rumination during natural pauses in conversation. If a character asks a particularly tough question that the protagonist doesn’t know how to answer, or when someone says something shocking that takes a moment to respond to. It can go wrong to put a paragraph of rumination in between two lines of dialogue that should have occurred within a second of each other. So just be careful of that. 

*Rumination also doesn’t need to be a full paragraph. One sentence of rumination can work after any line of dialogue. 

As an exercise, write a scene with only one character, and they aren’t allowed to leave the setting. You won’t be able to fall back on heavy dialogue because they’re alone, and because they can’t leave, you won’t be able to do too much narrative. Just write what they’re thinking, seeing, hearing. What memories come to mind as they’re sitting there, does the setting make them sad or cheerful? Does it remind them of something or someone? 

If stories don’t move forward with dialogue and narrative, they will eventually get boring. If stories don’t pause to allow characters to ruminate and describe what they see, they will become two dimensional and difficult for readers to immerse themselves into. That is why we strive to create as much balance as we can, while still holding on to our personal writing style.

Don’t force yourself to use more of a particular device than you feel comfortable with, but definitely experiment with them if you find you’re not using them at all. 

I hope that helps!

-R

The history of a medical instrument reveals the dubious science of racial difference.

“This is a problem not just with lung capacity measurements but with health inequality more generally. There’s vastly, vastly, vastly more research on genomics than on the social determinants of health. Part of the problem is the infrastructure of science. What kinds of questions are considered scientific?”

3

Motion Silhouette

Japanese childrens book that features pop-up shapes to cast shadows for the reader to bring motion to its story - video embedded below:

(Google Translation:)

This book is his second picture book that changes its shape depending on the environment.

I will begin to talk about the story and illustrations shadow falls on top of the page overlap. In this work, you can enjoy the animation of shadow phantasmagoric by you move the light. Trees and become bigger and bigger, which aims to train a distant star. Story that changes depending on the page falling shadows, shadows move around the top of the page.

Please enjoy the silhouette meaning and shape change in various ways.

You can find out more at the motion-silhouette Tumblr page here

This is the same narrative we always hear from the authorities. First, we must submit to their control; then they will address our concerns. All the problems we face, they insist, are caused by our refusal to cooperate. This argument sounds most persuasive when it is dressed up in the rhetoric of democracy: those are “our” laws we should shut up and obey—“our” cops who are shooting and gassing us—“our” politicians and leaders begging us to return to business as usual. But to return to business as usual is to step daintily over the bodies of countless Michael Browns, consigning them to the cemetery and oblivion.
—  What They Mean when They Say Peace
6

Cartographic Assemblages

Maps help us find our way in the world (or make us even more lost), but the concept of a map can also be applied when trying to organize together memories, identity, narrative and materiality.

Artist Lindsey Dunnagan explores the mapping of memories and identity in her series Mapping the Intangible, while in Mapping New Worlds, the artist focuses on manipulating topography, hinting at familiar places, but distorted in a way that the familiar becomes alien.

The materiality of Dunnagan’s work in Mapping the Intangible is significant because the watercolour is mixed with salt, allowing unexpected patterns to form, as if creating city limits, but also transform over time as the salt dries and flakes off. The artist focuses on locations that are familiar and important to her memories and identity, yet unrecognizable to the viewer because the maps juxtapose on one another, creating “false connections”, rather serving, as the artist states, “as an atlas of memory that informs identity”. The same kind of atlas, albeit abstract, can be found in Mapping New Worlds but rather than focusing just on identity and memory, the pieces in this series focus on “concepts of city development, communication, and abstracted” landscape. Familiar images such as cities and roads are obstructed by rivers or clouds, creating an almost mythological narrative of the geography.

Similar to Dunnagan’s work, is that of Scott W. Bradford’s, but rather than mapping out specific locations which focus on geography, Bradford pieces together various elements which map out a narrative through materiality. The artist states that he links “the materiality of the surface to the drawing itself, either metaphorically or in terms of the narrative” in order to emphasize that it is constructed; his maps are fiction. In both his series’ Blueshift and Journey to Nowhere, stories are being told.

Each piece maps out its own narrative, but when the series is presented as a whole, the works become a collection of stories, mapping out an overall narrative of materiality.

-Anna Paluch

We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job.

But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever. In your science, mathematics and engineering classes, you’re given facts, answers, knowledge, truth. Your professors say, “This is how things are.” They give you certainty. The humanities, at least the way I teach them, give you uncertainty, doubt and skepticism.

The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be. Science has replaced religion as our main source of answers to these questions. Science has told us a lot about ourselves, and we’re learning more every day.

But the humanities remind us that we have an enormous capacity for deluding ourselves. They also tell us that every single human is unique, different than every other human, and each of us keeps changing in unpredictable ways. The societies we live in also keep changing–in part because of science and technology! So in certain important ways, humans resist the kind of explanations that science gives us.

—  Science writer John Horgan responds to the major recent report on the value of the humanities.
15/09/2014 - Post-Script Post-Its

John,

This is a note. A note in which I feel the need to apologise for missing your notes. Had I known there were notes, I would have paid more attention to potential notes. At this point in the note I have written ‘note’ an uncomfortable number of times and I am ending the note because I have nothing else to say.

Yours,

Sherlock

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Embrace

The echoes of my steps resonated within the expanse of the hospital garage. As I made my way to the end of the aisle to my stall, a couple caught my eye.

A tall man, his hair only beginning to turn grey, faced a woman of similar age, dressed in a beautiful white summer dress. Next to them a car, its trunk agape, half packed with a box of personal belongings and a white plastic bag full of clothes sat waiting. Still, they stood, pausing, ruminating.

They stared longingly into each other’s eyes, a deep seeded pain overwhelming them as tears trickled down their delicate features. A warm embrace as they held each other tightly and wept.

I wondered what terrible tragedy had befell them. Did a loved one’s health take a turn for the worst? Did a loved one just pass away? Did their mother, father, daughter, or son, just perish from this earth? I could not help but wonder.

But it was not my place to ask.

I watched helplessly as they buried their heads in each other’s shoulders and comforted one other.

I continued walking.

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