Sunday Gather Writing Essential May 20, 2012: Onomatopoeia/Subjective Narration (SunWE)

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Dear Gatherphiles:

I hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day week off, and for those of you who contributed pieces, you get 300,000 brownie points!  (That’s a hyperbole.)

Today’s poetry device is as easy as today’s prose point-of-view is challenging, methinks.  Which prompt you tackle will speak volumes in front of God and everybody about your moral character.  ;-)

Today’s poetry device, or rhetorical figure, is onomatopoeia!  (I will have you know I spelled that right the first time…)  Onomatopoeia is a word which sounds like the object (i.e. a sound or something noisy) it describes.  They’re everywhere you look!  In fact, they’re so ubiquitous I don’t think I need to dig out a bunch of examples from literature.  Some examples of onomatopoeia words:


The list is endless.  Two examples from literature:

“Inspire them with such a longing as will make his thought/Alive like patterns a murmuration of starlings…” W.H. Auden

“And the bees weighted with pollen/Move heavily in the vine-shoots:/chirr—chirr—chir—rkk—a purring sound…”  Ezra Pound

Onomatopoeia can be really fun if you invent the word (who can forget Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?), or apply the onomatopoeia to something unexpected.  My poem “Procrastination” makes good use of onomatopoeia, alliteration, and other techniques of poetic diction.  Use your imagination!  Have fun!

Our prose narrative point of view is Subjective Narration. Subjective narration is first-person narrative by an unreliable narrator.  The narrator of the story is an amateur, telling a story that happened to him/her relatively recently.  This is also true of diary and letter narration, but in subjective narration, we do not have the cues of the diary or letter to tell us this is the case.  We must rely on the diction of the speaker (it may be written in dialect to one extent or another), the speaker’s biases, or the limitations of the speaker’s knowledge or self-awareness.  As with dramatic monologue, the reader may or may not be aware of who is being spoken to.

If this sounds vague and daunting, read the examples.  Subjective narration is a wonderful humor device.  Woody Allen loves to use first-person narrators who have hilariously inflated opinions of their intellectual or sexual prowess.  Steve Martin’s “Dear Amanda” (yes, it’s a series of letters, but never mind that) is a riot, as is Simon Rich’s “Hey, Look”.  But our first example is an absolute classic and gets pride of place here:

Edgar Allan Poe: The Telltale Heart

Woody Allen: “My Philosophy” paragraph 1.

Woody Allen: “A Little Louder, Please” Click “Look Inside” or mouseover the book cover.  In the “search inside” box, type “little louder” and click “Go.” Click the second search result; it says “Page 74”.  The preview only lets you read the first page of the story, but you’ll get the idea.

P.G. Wodehouse: “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” par. 2.

Simon Rich: “Hey, Look”

Steve Martin: “Dear Amanda” Click “Look Inside” or mouseover the book cover.  In the “search inside” box, type “Dear Amanda” and click “Go.” Click the result that says “Page 26”.  This preview will let you read the whole piece.

The Prompt:

Poetry: Write a poem which uses the device of onomatopoeia.  Extra credit for coining a new word.

Prose: Write a story (max. 1000 words) using the narrative point of view of Subjective Narration.

  • Put SunWE in the title and tags.
  • Indicate in some way which devices/techniques/figures I should be paying attention to if it’s not self-evident.
  • Deadlines are open.  This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week from today.  If you’re piece isn’t done by next Sunday, get it in when you can.  This is supposed to be fun.
  • I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
  • If you would like a little more academic critique–but still very friendly and positive–include the word “rigorous” in your post (e.g. “rigorous critique wanted”).

Here are the responses to last week’s prompt.  Let me know if I missed yours.  I hope you can take a few minutes and read some of the other submissions.



This week’s contributors revisited a variety of techniques:

Hail Dawn: thisn that

internal monologue: Karen Vaughn

Thoughts on Records: Nyles Wood

Death of a Friendship: Virginia M.

A Summer’s Eve:  Virginia M.

The Crossing: Ms. Lee P.


© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved.  Please share this on, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy.   Doug’s latest book is The Depressed Guy’s Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.

Doug’s Gather Group is Depression and Creativity, devoted to creative writing about depression and related illnesses, and creative writing as therapy.  Please consider joining.  You can read more of Doug’s posts there, or here.


About the Author ()

57 year old musician, poet, father of 4 grown children, composer, recording artist, author, humorist, survivor. I'm thoughtful, introspective, introverted, open, scathingly honest about myself, creative, a Renaissance guy, willing to grow and change and

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