February 2011 Updates
On Writing with Charles Euchner
On February 8, Charles Euchner, author of Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington (Beacon Press), and creator of The Writing Code, the only brain-based system for mastering writing and editing in all fields, gave a public lecture at Vanderbilt’s Writing Studio. Below are one consultant’s reflection on the event:
Charles Euchner’s basic premise was that writing is not an elusive, mystical process scattered down from on high but rather a systemized craft, like cooking or sewing, that can be mastered, and even more, contains little tricks or shortcuts to make the craft more tenable. Euchner argued that the way a parent might teach a child tricks to make dough rise quicker, so too can a writer learn how to maximize their storytelling abilities. Euchner’s parent in this correlation was Truman Capote, and his cookbook so to speak was In Cold Blood.
Using In Cold Blood as a reference point, Euchner declared his thesis: start strong, finish strong. On the level of sentence, on the level of paragraph, on the level of chapter: start strong, finish strong. Simple enough advice, and Euchner, in his constant reiteration of this “secret” did come awfully close to eye-rolling territory, but he never lost his audience. And according to the audience’s pulse and response, especially that of the undergraduates in attendance, Euchner’s visit was a success. It was in fact the element of audience in the writing process where I think Euchner connected the most.
As consultants here at the Writing Studio, we encourage our clients to consider who they are writing to, who they are arguing against, in short, who is their audience. Nevertheless, it is often difficult for students to apply this theory when they are used to writing papers solely for their professor. Euchner seemed to excite the students with his applicable examples of the start strong, finish strong mantra, and how it takes the audience into conscious consideration. Fittingly the audience responded, and was pleased.