Reflection: Argument on Nature of (My) Writing with Stephen King

We are often told, in considering the modern world of literature and art, that we are living in a postmodern world where “everything is relative”. Whether this comes from a constantly shifting geopolitical climate, an economy based on a rapidly changing standard, or from Einstein's theory of physical relativity, the fact stands that, in modern society, what works for one person is often wrong for another, and what is right for one situation might be entirely wrong for another. This concept applies fully when we consider what makes writing “correct” and “good”—it is obviously subjective. It is because of this subjective nature that it is nigh impossible to define “good” and “bad” writing. What is importat (to us) is how effective a writer is in getting his point across. If this is the writer's objective, then his success will depend not on his writing fitting the impossible concept of universally “good” writing, but what structures and techniques, what “tools” will best get his point in his situation.

There are several factors which can determine what “tool” a particular job calls for. One of the most classic distinctions is based on the character of the writing and its audience. Is it formal or informal? For a friend or a committee? If it's just for a friend, then it's likely that you can get get along just fine usin' colloquialisms & stuff, grammar's not that big a deal and who wants to worry about crazy thesaurus words and jargon, but slang's pretty dope. [Dude, that sentence is sic!] If the intended audience is more formal, however, it is imperative that a sense of decorum be maintained: that one pays strict attention to the etiquette of the medium, minds his usage of proper lexical formation, and uses the most applicable, most succinct vocabulary appropriate; this may include technical terms. Of possibly greater importance in determining the proper “tool set” is the goal of writing. If it is to show another authors purpose, terms describing structure, language, and diction are very useful, as is quotation. If it is to prove a point, rhetorical devices like open-ended questions, antithesis, and analogy are useful. In short, what tools are of use depends what the job is, and this may very well determine the quality. Its possible to cook prime rib in the microwave, but its not very good to most people's tastes.

While practically anyone's writings could provide examples of the use of varied techniques in order to get one's point across, in this case, we shall consider a small selection of mine. In the above paragraph, I have already outlined some of my tendencies. Within the works in progress project for which this reflection is provided one may see heavy use of quotation in my style analysis for Into the Wild, the Great Gatsby, and Lincoln's address, but it is quite literally absent from the Serendipity essay, the debate, this essay, and despite dealing directly with a source material, the The Scarlet Letter review. I did not do this deliberately in organizing my WIP project, but, apparently, for me quotation is a “tool” useful for style analysis, but not argument. (I do not count the quotation of words to question their meaning as quotation, as its purpose is different). I expect there is a similar division, though perhaps not as dramatic, of literary diction, analogy, and other rhetoric devices. Other tools are simply the workhorse of a writer and appear in nearly all his writings. For me, there is a heavy, pervasive usage of subordination, often in nonrestrictive appositives, cataloging, and multiple, somewhat redundant adjectives. It, perhaps, has to do with thinking programatically, in nested patterns (in less formal writing I even have a tendency to nest parenthetical (which, understandably, some find annoying)), but regardless, the point is simply that there are certain structures and techniques that work well for some and not others. Once again, it all is relative and one achieves best results by working with what is best for him.

There are even more examples in my writing when you look beyond the two standard essay types for this class. Where the objective was neither style analysis nor argument, completely different techniques were used. In the descriptive paper there is allusion, ambiguity, personification, and short emphatic sentences. In my autobiography, there is very deliberate structure in the introduction, recounting of many specific details, and some dialog. For both of these projects, the objective was very different, so the style was very different. Is one “better” than the other? Perhaps it is vanity, but I would say both these and the analyses are perfectly “good” because they effectively accomplish their tasks, and do so without being terribly dull. It is interesting to note, however, that in these, even in an assumed persona of my description's narrator, there is a notable, if less pervasive, presence of subordination and cataloging—for some people, certain tools are just more comfortable than others.

All told, my writing portfolio is simply one of many examples to prove most of King's sentiments. By using different styles and not worrying about a special formula for the perfect essay, I manage to make interesting, varied, and generally enjoyable writing. I do quibble a little with his view, however. Writing, like any other art form, does require affection for one's work. One oughtn't to become so caught up in ridding himself of affection that it too becomes an imposed formula, a unused tool.