Diagrammatic Writing

The short story “Great Rock n’Roll Pauses,” by Johanna Drucker, follows a young family living near a desert and the struggles they face in their relationships. Through each slide, we’re given different details about each family member and the ways they feel about one another. The conflict revolves around the son, who has a special interest in the pauses in songs. While the family supports this, the father struggles to find it useful and snaps at the son, causing him to cry. The mother comforts him, while his dad, embarrassed, goes on a walk with their daughter. In the end, the father learns how to embrace his son’s quirks and illustrates this by creating graphs of different pauses in songs. 

The changes the characters go through are internal, particularly the father. He learns how to accept his son the way he is and to encourage the different hobbies he enjoys. The diagrammatic structure of the story allows for exploration of its plot and characters in a unique way. Facts and quirks about each person are revealed through small blocks of text that allow the reader to envision the character without long, detailed paragraphs. Each piece of information and where it is placed feels intentional. I think this is a benefit of diagrammatic writing that shines through in this piece. You can choose specific, vivid pieces of detail that paint a picture for the reader and organize it in a way that quickly tells you about a character or storyline. 

A few ideas from this piece that inspired me was the way that the information is laid out to tell you something about a character. One example of this is on the slides about the mother’s annoying habits, clearly written by the daughter. The numbers attached to them, such as bad habit #48, tell the reader a lot while saying little. We can see from this that the daughter is critical of their mother and is often irritated by some of the little things that they do, even if they’re not important. Aspects like these make each person multi-faceted in just a few words. Overall, I found the story to be a fascinating exercise in the different ways that you can structure a plot and how that influences the tone and emotions it delivers.

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