Unformatted text preview: Planning and Drafting Seeing What You Have Read over your invention materials to see what you have. You probably have a great deal of material -- notes from observational and interview visits or from library research, some idea of your preconceptions, a list of questions, and perhaps even some answers. You should also have a tentative perspective on the subject, some idea about it or insight into it. Your goals at this point are to digest all of the information you have gathered; to pick out the promising facts, details, anecdotes, and quotations; and to see how it all might come together to present your subject and your perspective on it to readers. If you have done your invention writing on the computer, you may have sentences or whole paragraphs that can be copied and pasted into your draft. Whether your material is on screen or on paper, highlight key words, phrases, and sentences, and either make annotations in the margins or use your computer's annotating function. As you sort through your material, try asking yourself the following questions to help clarify your focus and interpretation: How do my preconceptions of the subject contrast with my findings about it? Can I compare or contrast what different people say about my subject? Do I see any discrepancies between people's words and their behavior? How do my reactions compare with those of the people directly involved? How could I consider the place's appearance in light of the activity that occurs there? If I examine my subject as an anthropologist or archaeologist would, what evidence could explain its role in society at large? Could I use a visual or other graphic to complement the text? Setting Goals The following questions will help you establish goals for your first draft. Consider each question briefly now, and then return to them as necessary as you draft and revise. Your Purpose and Readers Are my readers likely to be familiar with my subject? If not, what details do I need to provide to help them understand and visualize it? If my readers are familiar with my subject, how can I present it to them in a new and engaging way? What information do I have that is likely to be unfamiliar or entertaining to them? What design elements might make my writing more interesting or easier for readers to understand? The Beginning The opening is especially important in a profile. Because readers are unlikely to have any particular reason to read a profile, the writer must arouse their curiosity and interest. The best beginnings are surprising and specific; the worst are abstract. Here are some strategies you might consider: Should I open with a brief anecdote, as Edge does, action, as McPhee does, or on the street outside the place, as Cable does? Can I start with an amazing fact, anecdote, or question that would catch readers' attention? Description of People and Places How might I give readers a strong visual image of people and places? Can I think of a simile or metaphor that would help me present an evocative image? Which bits of dialogue would convey information about my subject as well as a vivid impression of the speaker?
Click here for more on specific narrative action. What specific narrative actions can I include to show people moving and gesturing? Information about the Subject How can I fully satisfy readers' needs for information about my subject? How can I manage the flow of information so that readers do not lose interest? What special terms will I need to define for my readers? What comparisons or contrasts might make the information clearer and more memorable? A Narrative or Topical Plan Profile writers use two basic methods of organizing information, arranging it narratively like a story or topically by grouping related materials. If You Use a Narrative Plan How can I make the narrative interesting, perhaps even dramatic? What information should I present through dialogue, and what information should I interrupt the narrative to present? How much space should I devote to describing people and places and to telling what happened during a visit? If I have the option of including images or other design elements, how might I use them effectively -- to clarify the sequence of events, highlight a dramatic part of the narrative, or illustrate how the people and places in the profile changed over time? If You Use a Topical Plan Which topics will best reflect the information I have gathered, inform my readers, and hold their interest? How can I sequence the topics to bring out significant comparisons or contrasts in the information I have? What transitions will help readers make connections between topics? If I have the option of including design elements, are there ways I can use them effectively to illustrate topics and reinforce the topical organization? A Perspective on the Subject How can I convey a perspective on the subject that seems original or at least fresh? Should I state my perspective or leave readers to infer it from the details of my presentation? The Ending Should I try to frame the essay by repeating an image or phrase from the beginning or by completing an action begun earlier in the profile? Would it be effective to end by stating or restating my perspective? Should I end with a telling image, anecdote, or bit of dialogue or with a provocative question or connection? Outlining If you plan to arrange your material narratively, plot the key events on a timeline. If you plan to arrange your material topically, you might use clustering or topic outlining to help you divide and group related information. The following outline suggests one possible way to organize a narrative profile of a place: Begin by describing the place from the outside. Present background information. Describe what you see as you enter. Introduce the people and activities. Tour the place, describing what you see as you move from one part to the next. Fill in information wherever you can, and comment about the place or the people. Conclude with reflections on what you have learned about the place. Here is a suggested outline for a topical profile about a person: Begin with a vivid image of the person in action. Use dialogue to present the first topic. (A topic could be acharacteristic of the person or one aspect of his or her work.) Narrate an anecdote or a procedure to illustrate the first topic. Present the second topic. Describe something related to it. Evaluate or interpret what you have observed. Present the third topic, etc. Conclude with a bit of action or dialogue. All of the material for these hypothetical essays would come from observations, interviews, and background reading. The plan you choose should reflect the possibilities in your material as well as your purpose and readers. At this point, your decisions must be tentative. As you begin drafting, you will almost certainly discover new ways of organizing your material. Once you have written a first draft, you and others may see better ways to organize the material for your particular audience. Drafting General Advice. Start drafting your essay, keeping in mind the goals you set while you were planning. As you write, try to describe your subject in a way that conveys your perspective on it. Turn off your grammar checker and spelling checker at this stage if you find them distracting. Don't be afraid to skip around in your draft. Jump back and fill in a spontaneous idea, or leap ahead and write a later section first if you find that easier. If you get stuck while drafting, explore the problem by using some of the writing activities in the Invention and Research section of this chapter (pp. 103112). As you read over your first draft, you may see places where you can add new material to reveal more about the person, place, or activity. You may even decide that after this first draft, you can finally understand the complexity of your subject and set out to convey it more fully in a second draft. A Sentence Strategy: Absolute Phrases. As you draft a profile, you will need to help your readers imagine the actions, people, and objects you have encountered. A grammatical structure called an absolute phrase is useful for this purpose. This structure adds meaning to a sentence but does not modify any particular word in the rest of the sentence. (You need not remember its name or the grammatical explanation for it to use the absolute phrase effectively in your writing.) Here is an example, with the absolute phrase in italics: I offer the bag to Jerry, order yet another beer, and turn to eye the pig feet floating in a murky jar by the cash register, their blunt tips bobbing up through a pasty white film. (John Edge, paragraph 19)
Click here to link to a tutorial on absolute phrases. Edge could have presented his observation of the pickled pig feet in a separate sentence, but the sentence he wrote brings together his turning and looking and what he actually saw, emphasizing the at-a-glance instant of another possible stomach flutter. Absolute phrases nearly always are attached to the end of a main clause, adding various kinds of details to it to create a more complex, informative sentence. They are usually introduced by a noun or a possessive pronoun like his or their. Here are three further examples of absolute phrases from this chapter's readings: This was a solid bronze casket, its seams electronically welded to resist corrosion. (Brian Cable, paragraph 20) Inside were thirty coffins, lids open, patiently awaiting inspection. (Cable, paragraph 17) He is interrupted by the reappearance in the market of Catherine Barta, who went home long ago and has now returned, her eyes hidden by her wide-brimmed hat, her shopping cart full beside her. (John McPhee, paragraph 24) Absolute phrases are certainly not required for a successful profile -- experienced writers use them only occasionally -- yet they do offer writers an effective sentence option. Try them out in your own writing. In addition to using absolute phrases, you can strengthen your profile with other kinds of sentences as well, and you may want to review the discussions of short sentences (p. 53) and sentences that place references to time at the beginning (pp. 5657). ...
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- Spring '08
- person, readers, absolute phrases