I am obsessed with how other writers show time in a piece of writing. There are so many different ways to do it and every piece that you write calls for the writer to pick what will work and how it will work.
Brevity is a great place to go and check out all kinds of writing and there are tons of works that caught my eye, but these three stayed with me this week, mostly for how they used time and the way the author’s were blunt but still painted a picture, a use of language I admire.
My favorite this week is Tyrese L. Coleman’s Why I Let Him Touch My Hair.
In this story, we are taken on a journey using a series of flashbacks. We start out with our author feeling strong as she sits with a man of a different race in an empty bar.
He spoke anxiously. An awkward laugh followed every statement, every eyeball-dash at my cleavage, each concerned glance upward at the wild black kinks springing from my head, and then, each nervous scan behind him, around the room. His fear empowered me.
We jump quickly from being empowered to being powerless, as the author takes us on a journey using several flashbacks interwoven with her current conversation with the white guy at a bar.
These flashbacks counteract to the opening statement of her empowerment as she details times that she has felt powerless against white boys and men.
The further in she takes us using these experiences as a young child at first, and then later as a college student, we realize that there isn’t much of a contradiction between her powerless past and her empowered present. This leads us to the reveal, “My power disappeared. If it had ever existed to begin with.”
Beauty and Youth by Elizabeth K. Brown writes the passing of time in a different way than Coleman. Brown tells the passing of time in chronological order, but writes in a fast paced way that reflects what is going on in her life at the time of her story.
Brown uses a clear beginning and outlines the events leading up to her end,”It begins with a man, an older man, and he is nothing like your father.”
Time passes quickly, “Years pass. You are 17, 19, 23.” Brown outlines what “he” is doing her life during this time. Taking her on vacations, buying her gas, going to art galleries, being jealous. They push away from each other and then gravitate back to one another and Brown ends the story bluntly, making clear to the reader that he is the one with romantic notions, but not her. She knows what the reality is and has alluded the reader to her feelings from the beginning, contrasting sharp words with romantic scenes.
The last story I read was the most interesting. How to Discuss Race as a White Person by Samuel Stokley, uses the concept of space in a very literal sense. The essay is a series of numbers placed sporadically on the page. The numbers work like traditional footnotes and correspond with tips.
Some of the tips seem random.
8 Approx. 240 minutes, or 14400 seconds.
9 See: Strange Fruit.
10 You have access to Google(dot)com.
A lot of them don’t, they fill up all of the empty space on the essay page plus so much more.
15 What if you’d called those cops?
16 What if you hadn’t?
17 “2015 may be one of the safest years for law enforcement in a quarter century.” The Guardian.
18 The number of people killed by cops this year will surpass the number of American soldiers killed in any single year since 2003. This is also true of last year.
Stokley delivers so much impact with his use of white space on a page. A guide full of white space written for white people.
These are just a couple of examples of how space and time can be used very successfully and I can’t wait to incorporate some (or all) of these techniques in with my personal writing.