janet burroway

Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft

From the "Invitation to the Writer":

You started learning to write-at the latest-as soon as you were born. You learned within hours to recognize an "audience," and within a few days that expressing yourself would elicit a response. Your basic desires created the fundamental form of story-I want, I want, I WANT!-with its end in gratification (comedy) or denial (tragedy). Within a year you had begun to understand the structure of sentences and to learn rules of immense subtlety and complexity, so that for no precisely understood reason you would always say "little red wagon" rather than "red little wagon." You responded to rhythm and rhyme (One, two. Buckle my shoe). You matched images and explained their meanings (This is a giraffe. Dog is hungry). You invented metaphors (My toes are soldiers). By the time you could speak you were putting together personal essays about what you had done and what had happened to you, and forecasting fantasies of your future exploits. By the time you started school you had (mostly thanks to television) watched more drama than the nobility of the Renaissance, and you understood a good deal about how a character is developed, how a joke is structured, how a narrative expectation is met, how dramatic exposition, recognition and reversal are achieved. You understood the unspoken rules of specific traditions-that Bugs Bunny may change costume but the Road Runner may not, that the lovers will marry, that the villain must die.

You are, in fact, a literary sophisticate. You have every right to write.


© Janet Burroway (jburroway@fsu.edu). All Rights Reserved.