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April 10, 2011 / habasabah

The Birds Sang No More

Sabah Harahsheh

The Bird Sang

- Sabah Harahsheh

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?

References:

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

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6 Comments

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  1. wasangrabe / Apr 14 2011 1:04 am

    Hi Sabah,

    I like how you started your topic, it is quite interesting. The image that you used really reflects effectively how we can use other things to stimulate emotions without using words. I agree with you that a piece of writing should be believable one in order to activate the senses of readers, which is not such an easy job because writers are need to use language in clever, clear and understandable manner, or in other word, close to certainty.

    Readers cannot taste or smell words to feel the purpose of a particular writing; therefore writers tend to employee or activate the file of information in reader’s mind, which is based on previous experience and knowledge, in order to visualize the action of writing. In the story, it is very sad what happened to the birds because using a pesticide.

    With regard to your question “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?”, I would like to answer it from the same story. I found a paragraph that is really effective in terms of reflecting the relationship between writing, imagination and emotion,

    “It is hard to explain to the children that the birds have been killed off, when they have learned in school that a Federal law protects the birds from killing or capture, ‘Will they ever come back? They ask, and I do not have the answer. The elms are still dying, and so are the birds. Is anything being done? Can anything being done? Can I do anything?”

    This paragraph is really written in clever and effective way, there is deep emotion and sadness just with making questions.

    At the end, is a very important aspect in writing to consider a reader`s emotion.

    • habasabah / Apr 14 2011 2:49 am

      Hi Wasan!

      Thank you! It looks like you’ve put a lot of time into your reply 🙂 much appreciated!

      As far as the image goes, I realise it’s not required, so I wish I could have conveyed more of a message in my text – but I thought it would help for those that are more visual learners! 😛

      It’s true what you say about tasting and smelling – however they do play a key role in memory function, which is the point I was making about all of the senses. Take a perfume for an example, one that someone no longer in your life used to wear, then for you to smell it somewhere in the air, you’re suddenly filled with an eerie kind of emotion, that may bring back memories or similar feelings of when that person was around you! In the case of the birds story, it doesn’t apply, but this is just an example to show how the senses are involved in emotion based on past experiences. I’d say in this case the reader would rely more on seeing and hearing and even feeling. Maybe having a pet bird, hearing it sing etc.

      There were many examples of how human emotion came through in the text – it was difficult trying to decide on one example, so what I did was generalise how we perceive emotion using the chapter “And No Birds Sing” as an example. I decided to apply what I had learnt by providing an explanation of use of emotion, rather than to talk specifically about the chapter too much.

      But anyway, before my reply turns into another blog-sized entry, I’ll thank you again! You brought up some good points and reiterated some of the points I made 🙂

  2. ghaleh01 / Apr 15 2011 3:21 pm

    Hi Sabah,

    Emotional responses of the human beings are varied according to different stimulus. The emotions can be positive like happiness, joy and love or they can be negative like fear, anger or disappointment(J Turner 2007). The singing bird is an example of a grieve emotion which is a negative in response to death. The question is how to deal with your emotions either if they were negative or positive? What is the correct or ‘healthy’ way to release your emotions? A simple answer to release the happiness feelings is a big smile that is painted on the face of happy person, or negative feelings can be released through a big tear dropped at the sides of the pillow in midnight.

    So any other ideas of the healthy release of emotions?

    J Turner (2007). Human Emotions, A sociological theory. Oxon: Routedge.

    • habasabah / May 27 2011 4:28 pm

      Hi,

      I didn’t notice I received more comments until now…:)

      Thanks for your comment, it’s true that certain texts trigger off certain targeted emotions in readers, for whatever reason (inspiring change or having the satisfaction of playing with human emotions? :P)…Anyway, I like the way you included the word “healthy” in your question 😛 As far as being a healthy release, I’m not sure, but is it effective? Yes! And the release I’m talking about is screaming into a pillow. Try it. I would much rather run down the street at midnight screaming, but the pillow was the next ‘best’ option – although running is healthy, so it’s hard to say which is ‘best’! 🙂

      Crying is good too, because it cleans your eyeballs.

      I could go on and on! 🙂

  3. melody68 / May 27 2011 3:55 pm

    Hi Sabah,

    It is an interesting writing.

    I am attracted by the title firstly. After I clicked in, the picture on the right conner impresses me as well. Both of the title and picture arouse my curiosity to read further more.

    Firstly, I want to talk about the writing technology of this article. To tell the truth, I like your writing style. It is clear and easy to understand. I think you are good in logical. I can follow your logical by reading every sentence in your article.

    You talk about the picture at first. It is really a smart idea. Look at your words as follow:
    “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.” What a good question. It is a intelligent way to attract readers’ attention to the major topic. Then the answer you write is what I think about.

    Secondly, I want to share some own idea with you about the topic. I like read things which can arouse my emotion. Sometimes, I find an interesting and beautiful prose, I can feel it. The feeling is just like drink a lovely cup of coffee in a warm afternoon. Then I remember that prose, not only the word, but also the lovely feeling I get from it. In addition, the author may like a gentle friend in my mind.

    So I think, it is necessary for writer to care emotional response when they are composing their works.

    Finally, I like your blog. Good luck Sabah!

    Cheers
    Melody

    • habasabah / May 27 2011 4:56 pm

      Hi Melody,

      Thank you for your reply! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy 😀

      I agree, pictures are great. I still love picture books and drawing 😛 I find that images help the writing to flow, I would have liked to write a blog post on the topic of how images add to the effect intended in a writing piece.

      I’m also glad you liked my writing style because I always feel a bit “iffy” or unsure of whether it flows well, but to have a second opinion is a comfort. 🙂

      One thing I would like to make clear (I’m pretty sure you understand this, but just in case as I feel it isn’t quite clear) is that the image I used was not the mental image I was describing about the bird singing (and relating that back to our own images we visualise) – for this reason it would have been better if I hadn’t included the image!

      Finally, I like your input on your emotional response to reading emotional writing! It’s a nice example and it also supports the idea I’ve explained about subconsciously accessing our memories…etc. 🙂

      Thanks again, and all the best to you too!

      Sabah 😀

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