The Birds Sang No More
The bird vibrated as it sang.
…How does this compare to:
The swallow’s vibrant shades of blue and green feathers were as a canopy of leaves rustling gently in the wind as the soft sweet melody resonated from its beak.
Here, a topographical picture is painted, without using emotional wording, but rather involving the senses – we see images and colours in our minds, remember the feeling of a gentle breeze, the soft texture of the feathers as being likened to fresh leaves, and the song of the bird sounding beautiful. Why is it that I can describe this picture in this manner without using emotional words? The answer is that I’m accessing my own memory of emotional experiences in order to describe this picture as I perceived it. I’ve seen many birds; I’ve heard them sing. I know they look beautiful and I know they sound sweet.
Emotion and memory together play a key role in creating an effective piece of writing. The word effective being a measure of the ability to capture the reader and convince them of a certain point of view.
Firstly, the reader’s senses need to be triggered, (secondly, the piece of writing the writer will use to do this, needs to be a believable one!) You might be thinking of the senses; smelling, seeing, tasting, feeling and hearing – you’re right, but this is only one side of the story! The other side involves a sixth sense – a literary sixth sense. It is a sense of self-awareness and identity, which connects with the emotions of the reader.
We all have a vast amount of data stored in our memory – scents, images, flavours, textures and sounds – this data is linked to a journal filled with personal experiences and emotional responses. The written word of writers’ accesses this database and takes a peek at its journal of emotion.
Use of emotion in writing aims to reflect emotion, within the reader, achieved by subconsciously tapping into the memories of those scents, images, etc. in order to arouse the same emotions in the reader that those original real-life experiences set off.
The book, The Silent Spring, presents a case of pesticide abuse and the fatal effects it has on birds. The title (and chapter 8: And No Birds Sing) evoke a feeling of spring time, though without bird song. The chapter mentioned, demonstrates the concept explained.
For example, when a housewife remarks,
What was man doing to our perfect and beautiful world? (Carson, 1962)(pg. 101)
– we identify with her – we have our own ideas of a beautiful world or of man’s’ doing – which awaken our inner values (based on our emotional experiences).
The story used no emotional wording, but rather stimulated emotion in the reader by presenting disturbing statistics of bird deaths. It is a plea to mankind – sadness for the birds; and identification with those that missed Earth’s natural beauty, triggered the readers’ emotions, as explained earlier.
So, let’s test this! Can you think of something you saw that triggered an emotional response – in relation to how you may respond emotionally to reading about dying birds?
Carson, R., (1962). Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Bukisa. (2009). Power Writing. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://www.bukisa.com/articles/114818_power-writing-using-words-to-create-emotion