Craft: The Elements of Design in Writing

Anne C. Miles > Writing > Craft: The Elements of Design in Writing

I woke up with this. I think I dreamed about it. Sometime during the night I decided writing and design were the same thing. I remember my first Elements of Design class. We had to make these notebooks, a page at a time. We made the pages from construction paper and had to find examples of each element in magazines. We did one page a week. It was a pain, but the assignment stuck with me.

Yes, I’m a designer.

Repetition
Scale
Contrast
Color
Alignment
Line/ Shape
White space

So anyhow. This got me thinking about how I would do such a notebook with writing. You’d think I’d be able to find such in magazines. But no. For one thing, most magazines don’t have fiction. Or not much. For another thing, I really don’t want to fight for permission to use other people’s work. So I’ll have to write some examples myself.

Anyhow. Enough of that. Can I come up with snippets for each element?

I’ll start with an easy one. Repetition.

This is a favorite device of mine. If you’ll forgive me, my short story The Fool is a great example. It’s really short.


The Fool

The lemon meringue pie at Patti’s in Grand Rivers, Kentucky boasts a height of 4 feet, six inches. It takes two men four days to eat one, and a slice tastes better than ambrosia. Well. We was driven’ close to that neck o’ the woods and I said to my missus, I said, “Missus. We need to stop at Patti’s and get us some pie.”

My missus likes to eat, you see. I thought that pie would grab her.

Don’t you know what the missus said? She said, “What in tarnation are you thinkin’? We cain’t get no pie. We have the dog with us and it will die in this heat.”

Darned if she wasn’t right. I thought a second and then I had an idea.

“Don’t they have a pettin’ zoo at that place?” I screwed my face up, thinkin’.

“They do,” affirmed the missus.

“Well then, we’ll just ask them to add our dog,” I said. I was proud of my solution.

So we pulled up to the restaurant and I parked our Ford truck and we got out and went in. I walked up to the lady at the reception and asked her. I asked, “Ken I put my dog in yer pettin’ zoo? I’d like to have some pie.”

That woman just blinked at me. Then she said “’Scuse me.”

She went to get her boss.

Her boss was a lady who had had too much pie if you get my meanin’. She waddled down the steps of the office and came up to me and looked me up and down like I was a rodent. I tell you I mighta left right then, but I love my pie. So I asked her, I asked, “Ken I put my dog in yer pettin’ zoo? I’d like to have some pie.”

That woman just blinked at me.

I ‘splained. “It’s hot outside and even if I crack the winder, the dog cain’t take the heat. I hate to go on down the road but I’ll have to. But if he can sit in yer zoo then I can eat and he’ll be happy. You have a empty pen, I done seen it.”

That woman just blinked at me. Then she said “’Scuse me.”

She went to get her boss.

Her boss was a feller in a suit who looked like he’d swallered a mess o’ crawdads alive. But we got along fine. At first I was nervous with him on account of the suit, and the crowd that had gathered watching all this unfold, but I love my pie. So I asked him, I asked, “Ken I put my dog in yer pettin’ zoo? I’d like to have some pie.”

That man busted out laughin’ and clapped me on the back and said I was the best thing that had happened to him all day. So we went and got my Shih Tzu while he got his keys. Then me and the missus and the dog, and the crowd and the Boss marched out to the pen and he unlocked it and we put Killer inside.

Killer tilted his head at us and barked at the pig next door. The kids all petted him and everyone cheered.

Me and the Missus, we got our pie. I tell ya. I’m a fool for pie.


See how I used repetition? Fun. One more example. I used to tell this story to my son to get him to clean his room.


Dust Bunnies

One day Mama told Sam to clean his room. She told him to put his doohickeys away.

“Do it now,” she said. “Or the problem will grow.”

Sam didn’t want to. He crossed his arms.

He looked under his bed.

“Plenty of room,” he said. There were only two dust bunnies, small and fluffy.

Sam shoved all his doohickeys under the bed. He pushed and crammed. When the doohickeys were jammed waaaaaay back, he threw his blanket on top.

Perfect.

“Sam? Did you put your doohickeys away?” asked Mama. She tapped her foot.

“Yes Mama,” said Sam. 

Sam felt yucky. He looked under his bed. The dust bunnies were bigger.

Their teeth looked dreadful.

The next day Mama told Sam to clean his room and  put his thingamabobs away. “Do it now,” she said. “Or the problem will grow.”

Sam didn’t want to. He crossed his arms. He shook his head. He stamped his feet.

And he looked under his bed.

He saw a pile of doohickeys and…two BIG dustbunnies.

They gnashed their teeth.

“Plenty of room,” he said.

Sam shoved his thingamabobs under the bed. He pushed and crammed. He jostled and poked. When all the thingamabobs were jammed way back, he threw the blanket on top, quick!

Nothing crashed. Perfect.

He looked under the bed. The dust bunnies were much bigger.

Their eyes flashed yellow. Their teeth looked dreadful.

“Sam? Did you put your thingamabobs away?” asked Mama.

“Yes Mama,” said Sam.

She tapped her foot. She looked at his bed. She shook her head.

Sam felt rotten inside. He wouldn’t look under the bed again.

That night Sam heard the dust bunnies. They rumbled.

The next day Mama told Sam to clean his room. She told him to put all his doodads away. “Do it now,” she said. “Or the problem will grow.”

Sam didn’t want to. He crossed his arms. He shook his head. He stamped his feet. He stuck out his tongue.

He looked under his bed.

There was only a pile of doohickeys and a pile of thingamabobs

…and two humungous dust bunnies.

The bunnies gnashed their dreadful teeth and flashed their yellow eyes. They rumbled.

Sam shoved his doodads under the bed. He pushed and crammed and prodded and poked.

But …they didn’t really fit.

He threw the blanket on top, anyway. Perfect.

“Sam? Did you put your doodads away?” asked Mama.

She tapped her foot. She looked at his bed. She crossed her arms.

“Yes Mama,” said Sam.

“All right,” said Mama.

Sam felt rotten and lousy. He couldn’t reach his bed. It was on top of all of the piles. It was much too close to the ceiling.

There were piles of doohickeys.

There were piles of thingamabobs.

There were piles of doodads.

The blanket couldn’t really cover them all.

When Mama turned away, the dust bunnies rumbled. The bunnies gnashed their dreadful teeth and flashed their yellow eyes and jumped at Sam.

The piles of doohickeys fell with a crash.

The piles of thingamabobs fell with a clash.

The piles of doodads just clattered. Doodads flew everywhere.

The dust bunnies reared up on their hind legs. They were going to EAT Sam.

“Mama! Mama! Help!”  Sam yelled as loud as he could. “I didn’t put my doohickeys away. I didn’t put my thingamabobs away. I didn’t put my doodads away. Help!”

Mama came running with her feather duster and her broom. She used her big voice.

“Stop it! Stop right now!”

The dust bunnies stopped.

“Don’t move,” she told the dust bunnies.

The dust bunnies rumbled.

Mama looked at Sam and frowned. She pointed at the doohickeys. She pointed at the thingamabobs and doodads. 

“Put your toys away, or the problem will grow.” 

Sam didn’t want to. He crossed his arms. He shook his head. He stamped his feet.

And then? 

He did it anyway.

Sam put away the pile of doohickeys. He put them on their shelves.

The dust bunnies still rumbled. But they were smaller. Their eyes were not so yellow.

He put away the pile of thingamabobs. He put them in their boxes.

The dust bunnies were even smaller. Their teeth were not so dreadful.

He put away all his doodads. He hung them on their hooks.

He swept the floor.

Poof. The dust bunnies disappeared.

Sam felt much better.

He threw his blanket on top of his bed.

Perfect.


Anyhow. I was just thinking about this. Wanted to get the idea down before I forgot. I’ll do another page on a new element soon. I might even get out my construction paper.

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