Goal: To discover details about the topic of your essay which will paint a vivid picture for the reader. Also, invention strategies help explore the focus and the significance of the essay. Try to use a smaller moment within the essay with some of these; instead of trying to cluster on your whole essay, choose one scene or section. These will work with remembering events or other personal narrative essays, but can be adapted to work with any subject or genre of essay.
Pick specific things to cluster on about this subject (event); don't try to cluster the entire event. That is too overwhelming, and too large. Always use the specific thing (scene or mini-event) in the center circle, then web out, concentrating on one of the following things per cluster:
- physical surroundings (setting)-use the five senses for this.
- situation-who's there? What's happening? Use names, active verbs, adjectives of emotion or mental state
- words that are said. Put dialogue in this cluster!
- a particular character who is important to the story
**Note: you can also do freewriting for 5-10 minutes (you decide how long you write for) on any of these items, or some that you think of yourself. Remember, to focus in will allow you to get to the important small details.
List at least 4 or 5 items, so you can have a choice of what to develop later. Lists can consist of one-word items or phrases; the development comes later, in writing. You can run lists on the following things:
- each of the five senses can have its own list: what did you see during this event? Hear? Smell? Feel (tactile)? Taste?
- bigger moments or scenes within the event: detail these with their own lists (see 5 senses lists above).
- list words or dialogue that describe particular characters.
- common feelings you had about this event
**Note: As soon as you develop these lists, you can freewrite about the items to get some more focused detail about them, some meat for your paper.
This can help you get a hold of your characters' voices, as well as help you recall some things that you might have spoken about.
Write a dialogue between you and a particular character, focusing the conversation on one of the following:
**Use one letter to designate that person and one to designate you. Don't think about punctuating or spelling or grammar; just try to capture their words, their dialects, the way they talk about things and the way they talk to you about them.
- The particular event at hand (but you might want to practice getting their voice down before trying this one)
- How you would talk to that person today (how you feel about that person today), as opposed to the day you met
- A recollection of an anecdote, recalling his/her perspective of the event and your perspective of the event
- How you relayed information to your characters during the event.
Try some of these to help you think about your relationship to your remembered person in concrete terms, rather than abstractions. Remember the rules of freewriting, according to Natalie Goldberg: Keep your hand moving; Don't cross out; Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar; Lose control; Don't think, Don't get logical; Go for the jugular (Writing Down the Bones, p.8)
These things can give you some great comparisons, similes and metaphors to use in describing this event. It can also help you see the significance this event has to you.
- What does the setting look like? If you had to paint a word-picture, how would it go? Use concrete words.
- How were you feeling at different points during the event? Doing a short freewrite on each of these helps you develop this progress for your audience to see (especially if your emotions changing was the significance of the experience).
- Who are the characters in the story? What would they do in a particular situation? For instance, put each of your characters on vacation. Based on their personality traits, where would they go? How would they accomplish things? This helps you develop the characters before writing about them in the particular event you've chosen to write about.
- Make as many metaphors as you can in one freewrite for your significance to this event.
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