From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kenneth Burk and identification in Creative Writing

I'm in a History of Rhetoric class and we've been reading Kenneth Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives. He says some awesome things that I think can help us creative writers.

Burke says, "You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech,l gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his" (p.g. 55). To me this is something important for writers to know and understand.

We are trying to persuade people to two things: 1) to read our work, and 2) that our work is high quality, well-crafted and worth reading. We can use Burke's idea of identification for both of these things. First, we need to use the identification principle in real life, as an every day person. We need people to be on our side, to support us, and if they relate to us and feel like as a person we deserve help and support, then they're really going to get behind us and our work.

Also, we can use this principle in our writing itself. The story and tone of the work in general need to have something in them that readers can relate too. If you are honest with yourself, and let your humanity show through, in your 'gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea,' etc, then your readers will connect with what you write. Also our characters must have something in them that makes the reader feel like they're a real person. Even the antagonists need to be sympathetic in some way, and following Burke's principal of identification will allow all your characters to leap from the page and grab the readers heart and imagination.

So be real and honest, let your readers see the real you, and make your characters true to life. Happy writing!

Sarah Allen

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