This week’s message is part of a mini-series I stumbled into two weeks ago when I lazily and shamelessly posted as my web log message a writing assignment I had already completed for an on-line course I am taking. The subject was baseball as played by my childhood friends on the street where we lived.
Last week’s message described the refinement that reminiscence underwent as I was required to take my past and make it relative to today’s children. This was a challenge as what we did some sixty years ago in many ways is no longer acceptable and in some ways no longer legal for today’s families. We played in the same street where cars routinely drove, interrupting our games without anyone ever being bowled over, knocked down, drug or even clipped by a motorized intruder on our fun.
We bullied one another with taunts about athletic ineptitude, which often migrated into comments about one’s appearance and ancestry. And apart from the times when I played catch, alone, with Marj, girls were not allowed to play in our games. Exclusion was not a crime when we were kids, although I was guilty of innocent’s pleasure. All of the guys wore cutoffs during the warm weather days, but Marj wore shorts. And when she did, her legs held a certain fascination for me that those of my male friends’ could not even suggest.
I submitted my attempt at revisionist history, sans any reference to Marj and her legs, with all the self-confidence I could have of being in complete compliance with the rules of the writing game, just as I had once been with the rules for playing our makeshift baseball games. I was pleased, but not surprised, to read the instructor’s opening comment about my work since it confirmed by own perspective on my achievement. The evisceration which followed was not so pleasant.
I was guilty of committing three errors in paying homage to the game I loved as a child, which are as intolerable in writing children’s stories today as allowing one’s children to play in the street, bully, or exclude young women (formerly known as girls) from participating in activities which hold the promise of revealing their full potential (which is not to be construed as referring to their bodily form).
When writing for children, one must show not tell. My story had too much narrative and not enough dialogue. So I have axed the witty narrative and put the wit into the mouths of my youthful characters. One must avoid repetition, which I mistook as a clever way to build suspense. Apparently it does not, so that got axed as well. And finally there must only be one point of view in the story and that must be from the perspective of the main character. I transgressed in this one time by saying what the main character’ friends were thinking. That sin has now been expunged for the betterment of my story and my final grade.
One other error of mine was not enumerated in the instructor’s comments. But it did show in the edits she made to the content. And that error is that I start sentences with the word and. This usually happens at the end of a paragraph, where there is one more thing I want my readers to know. And so I start the sentence with the offending conjunction, apparently with the mistaken impression that it is effectively connecting all of the independent points of my narrative previously stated, showing the various points of view, which are germane to the point I am trying to make. And so I won’t do that anymore.