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  • McKenzie Fox

Emotion in Syntax


The first thing I was taught when I started writing was how to correctly use both diction and syntax to further the emotional response evoked from the reader. Emotion is something I really focus on when writing and I think it also gives me new ideas when I want to convey raw feelings. An author that I studied who is exceptional at this technique is Tim O’Brien, the author of The Things They Carried. His use of masterful language and various sentence structures puts the reader in the mind of a soldier in Vietnam who watches others battle with the mental and physical struggles of the war. A single word in a sentence can make the reader go off into a completely different direction of what the story was depicting, so it's important to pay attention to these details.

Tim O’Brien understands both his characters and plot, so his use of this particular style works in favor of the writing. If he were to be talking about WWII instead of Vietnam, then everything would change. The characters, the setting, the time period, and the pressure. But most importantly he would need to change the style in which these characters talked, walked, even just stood there. The words in how he first described the characters would change. The reader can get different themes when reading a story, and a lot of the time those themes come from the idea of particular word choice or sentence variance that conjures up emotions that lead to a recurring symbol or idea. This is another example of how you need to pay attention to your styles. If Tim O’Brien took out his theme loss of innocence and the corruption of war the story would not be the same. It would be about how this war was like every other war and things were hard, but good. This is not Vietnam nor the story Tim O’Brien wrote. All these things are so important to the piece of work, so it’s fascinated me how these things can change one small detail and shift the entire writing into a different direction. I admire his writing style and hope to one day incorporate what he uses in his work into my own. As I read multiple style types my writing increases in emotion. I evolve and learn all I can about a specific style of writing to help arouse rawer emotions just from small detail choices. Both my peers and teachers also help me by critiquing my work and pointing out specific instances where something doesn’t feel right or a detail is saying something it’s not supposed to. It's always good to have someone else look at my writing because it's not their darling and they can rip it to shreds without second thought. Once I can catch on how to see those choices (how to kill your darlings) and how to quickly change them, I’ll be able to write in ways I wasn’t able to before and I think that's something I really look forward too.

-McKenzie Fox, Fiction Editor

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