We want to thank everyone who participated in our Why the Novel Matters essay contest. You gave us some wonderful entries to read and judge. Congratulations to our top three winners:
Vila Gingerich ~ winner of the Kindle Touch.
Susie Finkbeiner ~ winner of Sally Stuart's 2012 Christian Writer's Market Guide and our Novel Tips on Rice recipe book.
Cherry Odelberg ~ winner of Sally Stuart's 2012 Christian Writer's Market Guide.
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After Patti’s excellent, stimulating post on Monday, I have a confession to make. Two confessions, in fact.
One is, that I have not given up ambitions (though circumstances should certainly be leading me in that direction, some might observe.) In fact, Patti’s post caused me to put into words a new ambition. And writing it for everyone to see is the height of self-exposure.
So here it is. I want to be able to successfully write and publish in the way that Joyce Carol Oates does. She writes meaningful fiction and nonfiction. She dares to write in many genres – literary, suspense, gothic, young adult, children; short stories, novellas, essays, books and more. She’s a playwright, poet, literary critic, professor, and editor. She is disciplined and prolific in her writing output. And she takes risks with her writing, and does so with great success. (And she’s 73, which gives me hope for continued productivity.)
My first exposure to her terse style came when I listened to an audiobook presentation of Black Water, a novella that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. (By the way, a New York times reviewer once said that this was “the best audio book ever recorded.”)
In this book, Oates uses a literary device we’ve all been told to avoid: She uses the same phrase over and over again. (Haven’t you always been told that you should vary your vocabulary so the reader won’t get bored?)
The phrase Oates repeats is this: “. . .as the black water filled her lungs, and she died."
She uses this repetition as prolepsis, which is a word whose root refers to anticipation. In rhetoric, prolepsis involves the anticipation of, and pre-emptive response to, objections that the listener might have.
In literature, and in Black Water, it involves the foreshadowing of an event as if it had already happened. An familiar example of this as metaphor is when a prisoner on his way to execution is called "dead man walking."
By Oates repeating, “as the black water filled her lungs, and she died," the reader knows that the character will drown, and yet Oates fills the narrative with so many details of hope that it is not possible to accept the death, just as the character cannot accept her own coming death, until it is inevitable. The dramatic tension in this novella is excruciating.
Do you know of other authors who have successfully used repetition or prolepsis (or both)?