ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Week 12: taking risks--humor, exaggeration, juxtaposition

The title up above pretty much says it all.

There is a place for all of the above in non-fiction. But these things are risky because when they fail there is no safety net.If you make a joke and no one laughs, you're in a pickle. If you exaggerate and everyone takes it straight.... Ditto irony. If you juxtapose, let's just say, a description of the honeydipper cleaning out your septic tank with his hose and pump with a sketch of a kid sucking up the last bit of soda with a straw--and your reader's reaction is revulsion instead of the amusement you had hoped for, well, then, you have lost your reader bigtime.

As for fiction in faction, there is always room for embellishment, stretching the truth, adding a nice but inaccurate detail, conflating events and combining characters. But is there a place (and a reason) to fictionalize, to change endings, to invent incidents out of whole cloth--all in the service of NON-fiction? Non-fiction, I repeat.

And remember: There are risky topics, risky ways of writing about non-risky topics, and risky ways of writing about risky topics.


Then there is the question of risky topics and risky approaches to topics. I don't think risky is necessarily the same as inappropriate or crude. For adults, long past junior high school, certain high-impact topics may still get a smirk--'sex,' most obviously. But that vestigial jhs smirk really is not enough to power the topic!

Once one has had that smirk, the hard work of writing still needs to be done, and the topic itself has risks and pitfalls aplenty. Another kind of risky topic is the low-impact, 'boring' topic--'my summer vacation' is the classic. Can one work successfully with and breathe life into something which seems DOA?

You may be asking, 'Why try risk? What's the advantage? I have my thing, my thing works, why change it?' Because an audience can sense when you're running on fumes--even if you're still speeding along, there's a difference. Taking risks is a way of reinvigorating the relationship with the audience. It's not quite the same as distancing--instead you're almost asking the audience to give you a break, to go along in tandem with you--you take a risk and the audience takes a risk that it will be a risk that pays off. You're in it together!

This is a week where you take a few risks and what those may be, I can't determine for you. On your own website, write a risky piece. In the prompts for the week, take a risk in your responses. 

But this week is not about writing true confessions about some risky thing you may have done--that absolutely misunderstands the week.  Not looking for stuff you'd rather not write!


Anonymous reetplus3 said...

fun(ny) fun(ny) fun(fy)

got some good ideas while 30,000 plus feet in the air.

Sunday, April 17, 2011 7:43:00 AM  
Blogger HillNicole said...

I must admit, within the past few weeks this assignment caught my eye much more than the others did.. it feels good to have some excitement about this paper!

Monday, April 18, 2011 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

30K sounds like a good natural high, reta

it's not my assignment, hillnicole, it's just spring busting out all over

Monday, April 18, 2011 7:49:00 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

soooo I knew one of those kids (Colby) and just to set the record straight he is not a bad guy at all haha he is quite funny and nice! I think taking a risk shall be no problem.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

I know one of the writers...Colby. and just to set the record straight he is not mean he is quite nice and funny actually haha
Risk takin....should be interesting

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 1:35:00 PM  
Blogger Rebecca C. said...

This should be a fun theme to work with. It sounds interesting and challenging at the same time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 9:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Zoe Little said...

hmmmm, this shall be interesting. This is the first one (in a loooong time) that I'm semi excited about.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 9:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Derek P said...

Yes. I love being funny and i feel like I'm good at it. I hope this will be one of the easier assignments that we've got so far. Keyword there Hopefully...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger emily said...

I'm hoping this one will be easier for me, the last couple have been hard for me to think of a topic!

Thursday, April 21, 2011 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

This week seems to be a little easier to me. Which is good!

Thursday, April 21, 2011 3:21:00 PM  
Anonymous morgan said...

I never exaggerate.

Friday, April 22, 2011 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger darci said...

This seems like a good week, not looking forward to some of the prompts though

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 6:59:00 AM  
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Friday, April 29, 2011 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan G said...

Prompts look a bit vague, but humor is the one thing I am confident I can convey.

Monday, May 09, 2011 8:17:00 PM  
Blogger RJ Perry said...

I'm going to give this a shot via theme response. I was just going to skip this section and take the hit to my grade, but it can't hurt to try.

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