Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What role are you taking?

In academic writing, much attention is paid to the writing situation. What is the purpose of the piece? Are you trying to persuade? To inform? Are you sounding the call to action? What, exactly, do you want your reader to know, understand or do after they’ve finished reading your piece?

According to Mike Palmquist in his book Joining the Conversation, Writing in Collegeand Beyond, there are six basic roles the non-fiction writer plays: the Observer, the Reporter, the Interpreter, the Evaluator, the Problem Solver, and the Advocate.

In fiction, however, these writing situations are often ignored. We think we have a single purpose: to entertain; that we have no other reason for writing a good story than to write a good story.

When it comes to character, though, we shouldn’t ignore these roles. Think about the books you’ve read. How often have you been moved to consider a deeper philosophical question brought up in a fiction work because a character played the role of the Advocate? Viewed a problem in a new light when a character became the Observer? Thrown a book across the room because the unthinking masses adopted the villain’s role as Problem Solver as the correct path?

Over the next few weeks we’re going to take each of these writing situations and look at them in depth from a fiction point of view. How can you use all that academic writing you learned in college and put it to use inside your own stories? It’s easier than you think.

Today we’ll start with the Observer, then next week take on the part of the Reporter, and so on. Ready?


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