I’ve done a lot of thinking about structure lately. My students need to learn some. They’ve finally got some great ideas, but they are struggling with effectively sharing them in their writing.
I’ve become hyper aware.
I notice when an author introduces a topic. I notice when he builds a paragraph with reasoning and evidence. I notice when he concludes with a sentence that alludes back to the main idea. I notice balanced ideas in balanced sentences, and I get a thrill when the author captures meaning through structure and not just words and phrases.
Like this passage by Alan Lightman in his little novel Einstein’s Dreams (53-54):
There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in air. Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing. Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls. Pedestrians are frozen on the dusty streets, their legs cocked as if held by strings. The aromas of dates, mangoes, coriander, cumin are suspended in space.
As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly. His heartbeats grow farther apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, until he reaches dead center and stops. For this is the center of time. From this place, time travels outward in concentric circles–at rest at the center, slowly picking up speed at greater diameters.
Who would make pilgrimage to the center of time? Parents with children, and lovers.
And so, at the place where time stands still, one sees parents clutching their children, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The beautiful young daughter with blue eyes and blond hair will never stop smiling the smile she smiles now, will never lose this soft pink glow on her cheeks, will never grow wrinkled or tired, will never get injured, will never unlearn what her parents have taught her, will never think thoughts that her parents don’t know, will never know evil, will never tell her parents that she does not love them, will never leave her room with the views of the ocean, will never stop touching her parents as she does now.
And at the place where time stands still, one sees lovers kissing in the shadows of buildings, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The loved one will never take his arms from where they are now, will never give back the bracelet of memories, will never journey far from his lover, will never place himself in danger in self-sacrifice, will never fail to show his love, will never become jealous, will never fall in love with someone else, will never lose the passion of this instant in time.
I love it when an author becomes our writing coach.
Thank you, Mr. Lightman.