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Modifiers II : Painting Pictures–Elaborate Use of Modifiers

Posted by CW64 on May 21, 2010

My apologies; I have been away for so long due to a busy schedule. Such is the life of a writer. I haven’t forgotten my readers and will try posting more frequently.

Now, on with the post . . .

This might be old news for some of you, but as a writer, I have come across an endless array of modifiers; they come in a variety of forms, descriptives being only one of them. Anything that inflects an idea in order to show specificity or molds that idea into some uniqueness is a modifier.

Well-crafted writing uses the modifiers not only carefully, but also creatively to paint a desired picture consisting of particular smells, sounds, images, thoughts, feelings, textures, and a wide range of emotional and psychological framework, as well as story depth, and human experiences. Such modifiers and how they are used are at the heart of writing, especially creative writing.

No, this doesn’t contradict the points on redundancies related in the last post; this merely goes beyond them. Modifiers are not ‘weeds” that need to be plucked out and thrown away (unless they are not necessary), but serve to extend an idea to its fullest potential without going irrationally or unnecessarily extreme in expression.

One of the most common modifiers is the genitive case whereby the description of a term or group of words is contingent on grammar. This can be shown in two ways—with the use of the apostrophe and the preposition “of” between the term and its possessor or that which specifies it. The possessive, which is marked by the ‘’apostrophe-s’ in English provides the designation of ownership or measurement, such as in the case of “John’s house”. In this case, the grammatical modifier identifies two points: the owner and that which is owned. Therefore such a modifier serves a two-part function that is incomplete without either point. In terms of measurement, however, the ‘apostrophe-s’, which continues its dual purpose role, specifies a particular length of time or total. “We got a full-week’s pay this period” is ideal in that the sentence establishes the amount of compensation received by the speaker and her/his group, just as “the can contained a wall’s worth of paint” infers the amount of liquid in that container. In both cases, the simple ‘apostrophe-s’ conveys all the same information, or more, than “the house belongs to John” and “the can contained enough paint to cover the wall,’ only that the grammatical former example provides a cleaner and more direct reference, and minimizes word count.

The “of” variation has its place but is rare in English, considering the ‘apostrophe-s’ and does the same job more concisely. “John’s house” is more acceptable and preferable than “the house of John,” where the latter would be the apropos structure in Latin-based languages like Spanish. Since the ‘apostrophe-s’ does not exist in Spanish, “La casa de Juan” would be the precise equivalent to English’s “John’s house.” Both serve the same purpose.

And to think: a simple apostrophe accompanied by an‘s’ does all that. Amazing, isn’t it?

That’s not the end of it, of course; it’s just the beginning.

Syntax also contributes to modifier elaboration. A host of rhetorical, poetic and tropic concepts collectively recognizes such internalization with regard to sentence and paragraph structure as associated with idea development. Where the ‘apostrophe-s’ modifier minimizes expression, antithesis and chiasmus focus on the relationships involved in the development of the chosen idea. In like fashion, the construction of narrative influences how said idea will be perceived, not to mention the fact that tone, which itself also adds to the descriptive mix, can take a life of its own and create color and ambiance in unique and intricate ways. Consider the following example:

Zack had always been a pedantic conversationalist with his repetitive “wherefores” and “henceforths,” while we equally grew as intrigued enthusiasts in a multitude of academic areas. His hours’ worth of talking, though interesting, still annoyed us to no end.

Where the chiasmic structure of the first sentence describes the basic relationship between Zack and narrator in balance, denoting that both sides hold equal importance, the antithetical contrast presented in the second statement adds depth to the complexity exchanged between both parties. Notice, too, that the genitive, with its apostrophe after the plural ‘s,’ alludes to the subject’s loquacious nature.

The quoted verbal cues, as well, enhance Zack’s character even further; the readers can actually hear his educated though pretentious voice speaking in their heads.

Then, too, there are the dynamics of speech which mark not only the various relationships between ideas, but organize development in terms of progressiveness and priority. The gradatio and auxesis are similar in regards to this, but where the former involves repetitive word links, the latter deals with word arrangement devised to illustrate gradual intensity in textual meaning, such as in the case of climactic growth.

Despite the repetition, however, redundancy is not the case here. The anadiplosis inferred in gradatio offers a poetic flare to an expression, as does the anaphora. Re-employment of a word or phrase can quite often add emphasis on certain ideas or aspects of ideas so that such significances need not have to be spelled out in verbosity. Word count is important, and minimalism is imperative in all kinds of writing. One can say more by saying less, as the adage goes, and that is indeed so true.

Next: Modifiers III: Painting Pictures—Minimalism, the Use of Symbolism and Other Creative Innovations . . . .

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