Reality Check Hoorah for the anecdote


Fanfare! This is no relation to writing BTW :) LOL

Humor -- Statement from a Poet

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Apr 19, 2018
For many years I published regional magazines and weekly newspapers. To help beginning writers whip their material into shape for these traditional “break‑in” markets, I explained to them that anecdote and personal experiences were the lifeblood of readable articles.
I put the structure basic to all good nonfiction writing into “one‑two‑three” form and gave it a name: the “freelancer’s paradigm.” Results were almost immediate. Marginal articles suddenly became publishable articles.
The paradigm follows a simple pattern, but it is a very important one. It works the way our minds work, moving effortlessly from the general to the particular, leading the reader on with effective story‑telling. It consists of three parts:

a. A general observation, statement of fact, or question;
b. Followed by a narrowing of focus to a single case;
c. Followed by an example, anecdote, or quote.

Anecdote is antidote to the stale air of abstract fact. It lets the fresh air of personal, one‑on‑one experience waft through your narrative. Some very successful books are constructed almost entirely of anecdotes. This is particularly true of the classic best‑sellers in the salesmanship and motivation genre. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top, W. Clement Stone’s Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People all fit into this category. So do more recent titles such as Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones and, on a somewhat more intellectual level, M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. Not to mention the granddaddy of them all, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

The anecdote appears in the most unlikely places, and even the most highbrow authors ignore it at their peril. Take the case of Immanuel Kant and René Descartes. Kant wrote a monumental tome called the Critique of Pure Reason. Descartes wrote a slim volume called the Discourse on Method. Both writers were brilliant. Both altered the course of the history of ideas. Yet only one of them—Descartes—is widely read, widely quoted, and hailed today as the “father of modern philosophy.” Why is this so? It’s the power of the anecdote. Kant’s book is a dense and virtually impenetrable jungle of thought, a veritable collapsed universe of ideas and analysis. Descartes, on the other hand, starts out with a first person narrative and a fabulous use of the paradigm: “I always wondered why mathematicians agree on everything but philosophers agree on nothing,” Descartes begins. “Then one cold winter—it was 1637, 1 believe—I was holed up in a small room, stoking a pot‑bellied stove and trying to keep warm, and I had an idea. What philosophers needed, I decided, was an absolutely universal starting place, a proposition like “a straight line is the shortest distance between any two points.” But was there any such proposition? I proceeded to doubt every idea in my mind, except for one. I could not doubt that I was doubting. My thought processes proved at least my own existence. “I think,” Descartes concluded, “therefore I am.” Anecdotes translate your ideas into the language of personal experience and make them come alive. An anecdote, by the way, can make a strong lead for a query. It tells an editor a great deal about your slant, your wit, and your writing style.
I agree with what you say about the power of the anecdote, which are often humorous and revealing about the character of the speaker.

One thing I've observed about effective writing, be it in novels or on television, is that the characters are honoured by being given room to be themselves—they hold true to who they are, and they tell (or remember in their memory) stories from their past—which are outside the unfolding storyline. This happens in comedy series like The Simpsons, Porridge, Fawlty Towers, Friends, Cheers and Open All Hours, and the telling of the anecdote rounds out the character of the narrator and adds a bonus treat to the plot.

My favourite crime writers include anecdotes. James Lee Burke's protagonists are haunted by their past, as is Henning Mankell's Inspector Wallander—who's forever trying to work out why his father, ex-wife or daughter did things, including tales of their weirdness as he talks to friends, witnesses and suspects.

I've been toying with ways of having my Cornish Detective protagonist tell more anecdotes, but I'm constantly aware of keeping to the recommended 80,000 word count for my genre. Patrick Ness has one of his characters in The Crone Wife say: “A story is not an explanation, it is a net, a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us.”

I attempt to create these sticking points in my stories, through demonstrating key aspects of human nature that motivate the heroes and villains, and by a sprinkling of humour.

It's a peculiar facet of memory, that we recall anecdotes someone told us years ago, but we mostly forget what they were like as people.

I wrote an online course on philosophy a while ago. I'm not an expert but it's something I enjoy. There are hundreds of philosophers. They're great thinkers, not storytellers and it's true enough, their writings would benefit from some personal anecdotes. What we know of Socrates teachings we got from Plato. They often weren't writers at all but speakers and thinkers. Philosophy is difficult reading and we waste even less time than ever with thinking.

I like this blog post:

Descartes and Kant

Many philosophers were influenced by someone hardly anyone knows about, Hume. Descartes and Kant weren't actually contemporaries. Kant was born about seventy years after Descartes. We know 'Cogito, Ergo, Sum' because it's pithy but understanding what Descartes meant by it, takes more time, more words, and headaches.

I sometimes think authors like Wayne Dyer, Norman Vincent Peale (certainly him), M. Scott Peck.... and other pop psychology gurus, are our modern philosophers. Shame on you for not digging up a woman. Especially since Hay House, founded by Louise Hay (and you can put her on the list too), publishes all sorts of new thought/pop psychology/motivation books. I know she publishes Wayne Dyer. They were buddies.

Hay House

I always wish I could fast forward a hundred years and see which of these gurus theories survives the test of time. There are so many of them, not many of them saying anything very original.

Philosophy is historical. It tells us what people cared about and what they were willing to consider. I'm not sure how the sheer volume of what we have accessible to us would compare when everything is taken into account, to what was available to people during Kant or Descartes time.
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Fanfare! This is no relation to writing BTW :) LOL

Humor -- Statement from a Poet