Overheard at The White House

R&B and soul singer William “Smokey” Robinson, who recently visited the White House, was later interviewed on National Public Radio about his writing process. He said “there are no new words. No new chords. Maybe even no new ideas. I just want to say ‘I love you’ in a way it’s never been said before.”

Then NPR played one of his most famous song lyrics . .

“Take a good look at my face.
You see my smile seems out of place.
Look closely, it’s easy to trace
the tracks of my tears.”

Telling vs. Showing

Writing teachers often emphasize showing over telling. And I point out, as a general rule, that most compelling stories employ about 80 percent showing and 20 percent telling (or similar formulas: 90/10 or 75/25). My students at Hopkins, after all, are mostly scientists so can easily get their heads around Newtonian numbers.

To demonstrate, I wrote the following quote on the board for the showing/telling formula.

“I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vics, and his hair was perfect.”–Warren Zevon, lyrics from Werewolf in London

Hateful Things #3

A tribute to Sei Shonagon:

It’s hateful to watch a mother talking loudly on her cell phone while her three-year-old boy plays video games on her iPad. It’s not the games, per se. And I don’t begrudge personal mommy breaks (even though her chatter is rather annoying, marring my much needed personal mommy break). It’s the maniacal laughter that pours forth from the tablet every time the kid wins. Or loses.