Adding Texture Day 1 - Mixing Types of Communication to Engage Listener

The idea for this exercise comes from Chuck Palahniuk’s book “Consider This”. Though he is not a songwriter, his tools, tips, and techniques can really help us. He states that a “story is a stream of information”. Your job as writer is to “think of yourself as a DJ…mixing the tracks. The more music you have to sample from…the more likely you’ll keep your audience dancing.” He says to be aware of the many different “textures” at your disposal.

He categorizes three such forms of communication as "Description", “Instruction”, and “Exclamation (onomatopoeia) (other times this may be referred to “expressive”)”. Often, we as writers get stuck on description. The example he gives of blending all three is:

“A man walks into a bar and orders a margarita. Easy enough. Mix three parts tequila and two parts triple sec with one part lime juice, pour it over ice, and-- voila-- that’s a margarita.”

In reading this, I immediately thought of the song “Love Shack” by the B52s. In the one song we get
Descriptive language:
If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says
Fifteen miles to the, love shack, love shack yeah
I’m headin’ down the Atlanta highway
Lookin’ for the love getaway

I got me a Chrysler, it seats about twenty

Wearin’ next to nothing ‘cause it’s hot as an oven
The whole shack shimmies when everybody’s movin’ around

Instructive Language:
So hurry up and bring your jukebox money

Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale
And it’s about to set sail

Exclamative language:
Bang bang bang on the door baby

What is interesting is that in the exclamative example is also instructive: “Bang on the door, knock a little louder” is the whole line. The Instructive example also combines in descriptive language: Get in my car, here is how big it is.

This became one of their biggest hits.

For this exercise, it is pretty simple. Write a paragraph or a stanza of poetry that mixes the three textures of language.

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You wake up curled around the bowl
Collapsed in mounds upon the tile
Your skin unfamiliar with the sting of concentrated cold
The pipes gurgle gurgle and I’m alone
Sopping towels are comfort
Peel your leg - kwchichz- off the floor
This cozy home, you’ve never seen
But felt it calling out in the swoosh of wind
Undo your mind and
Weave it through the grout

This word: kwchichz is my approximation of the suction sound. It is pretty gutteral.

goosebumps riding up your arms
like the haze of static emanating from the glass dome on a crt tv
in your minds eye you see the child’s reflection off the black screen
an old memory
tapping the glass clink like the aquarium at your old dentists office
a hole in the wall the size of a photo booth, n64 controllers on plastic accordion arms that crunched and crinkled when you moved it
banjo kazooie, abstract polygons
you tap plastic buttons that rattled and mushed in their place. imph , clngk

never messed with onomatopoeia—needs work

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So, it doesn’t really have to be onomatopoeia. Some folks call it “expressive” language. It can be anything that exists to express, rather than describe or instruct. In Chuck’s example, the word “voila” does it. So does the phrase “easy enough”. If you took out those words, the narrative would be the same. However, those words help pacing, and also reflect the way we talk. A good example in my dialect is “You know”. We use that often for no other purpose other than pacing. We might say: He went down to the store to get some, you know, flowers and things." I really like the line in yours “tapping the glass clink like the aquarium at your old dentist’s office”. It paints a great picture. Your example has great description language and utilizes the exclamation/onomatopoeia languages really well. There are some soft instructive phrases, but I think they could be strengthened. Often, when we use instructive language (in English) we drop the “you”. The mandative verb has an implied subject. Your last line, for instance, could be more mandative by saying something like “Tap the plastic buttons, rattle and mush them into place, imph, clngk”. I basically turned all the verbs into mandative conjugation to implore action on the part of the implied “you”. Great job!

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thanks~ very helpful as always

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