Exercise: It’s a Euphemism

by jonnahzkennedy

So, today there’s not really a lesson, just the homework, but I’ll explain.

Yeah, I think is wife might’ve killed him or something, I also heard that the dog licked up the blood. It was sick.

Imagine if you wrote a story with that tone, with that flatness, as though you were having a friendly, dissociated conversation with a friend about the news that day without any real care for it, just a conversation starter. Often times, when we write, we like to embellish and add flare to extraordinary by adding figurative language and other literary devices like hyperbolic: the dancing flames were up to the stars, ravaging the night with it’s sharp jabs. Now, imagine if the sentence was written in a euphemistic fashion: The flames burned brightly. Suddenly, there’s no urgency, nothing more than what’s there. The reader is now really left to figure out what these flames look like. Imagine that your work is a minimalist piece of art work that the readers have to pay attention to or just read a couple of times to really grasp what’s being said. You as the author have to do two things: work incredibly hard to keep your inner writing voice from pushing you to write beautifully and do as little as possible.

Imagine that your story is purgatory: the place in between two stories that a reader is reading. It’s a commercial break. Too often, writers always want their work to be in the spotlight, but sometimes in order to really be in the spotlight, you have to do something that no one has seen before, or doesn’t see often. What is more, new writers, and sometimes experienced ones, will want to write and craft all these beautiful things, writing everything perfectly, and making sure that the reader gets every detail, but that will get you nowhere: the reader will begin to skim your work, begin to get bogged down by all this superfluous description, and at some point, they’re going to stop reading. What you want is to engage the reader, and one of the ways you can do that is by making every sentence imperative. Dire. Essential. And the best way to do this is get rid of all the fluff. Strip the house down, throw out all the furniture, now all you’ve got is concrete. You need to give the reader concrete, and what they decide to do with that concrete, if they decide to bring everything back, that’s on them: in this scenario, it’s just your job as the writer to show them the house. Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, in an essay, that there are two kinds of people who will sell you a house: the agents and the owners. The agents will give you all the facts, the dimensions, the build, style, and everything that you need to know about the house that’s essential. Then there are the owners who will tell you about every rock and and crack in the drive way, how they used to have dinner, how they raised their kids, and the qualms of marriage as they give you a tour of your house.

This time, you’re going to be the agent: you’re just going to give us the facts, dimensions, and aspects of the house. No heart. You’re a cold hearted agent who’s just trying to sell a house. Write a story in the form of a very long euphemism. Undercut and minimize¬† everything so that it doesn’t sound drastic, but it is. Hide the heart of this story like you would a loaded gun under the floorboards.

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