So Simple We Never Think to Use Them
At Study Hall. Slightly burned out. Good night.
I can already see in my mind how this use of lists will be extremely helpful in my current project. Thanks, Chuck!
Lists, I think, can be easy to misuse in that they can stand out as curiosities. For example, when I read Walden: or, a Life in the Woods, I was fascinated by the lists of goods purchased and their prices, but this was a distraction from the themes of the book. In the examples given, the lists made points that supported the themes.
I loved Joe Frank's lists and how he utilized them in stories. He used them often and they were fantastic and many times very funny. I've tried using them as well and hope to achieve the same effect one day.
I love this, thank you. It brought to mind rather a few Pink Floyd and Roger Waters lyrics. He uses lists in his more political songs to demonstrate hypocrisy. By making the lists rhyme you turn them into poetry or a song. Genius.
I love lists. They definitely add some different texture to your narrative. You can get creative with it too. A shopping list, a list of weird people you've dated, a hit list, an ingredient list, a list of things at a hoarder's house, a list of Bob Ross paint colors, and so on.
Here's the question I had about lists. Do you have to list off each item in the same paragraph, or can you give each item its own line? So that it kinda looks like a poem.
Today I watched this YouTube video about lobotomies. Totally at random. Didn't know much about them or what they did. Learned about how brutal we were with people with mental issues. Our methods were damn near torture. Electric shocks, chained them down to beds or walls, forced them to take drugs.
By disconnecting a part of the brain, suddenly the rambunctious and the uncontrollable were docile. I winced when I saw how it was performed. An ice pick hammered through the eye socket and then they wiggled around. Like...wtf dude? Also learned about what they did to Rosemary Kennedy. Broke my damn heart. She had mood swings and they gave her a lobotomy. She was messed up for life after that.
Did you learn about lobotomies while you were writing "Zombies?"
First of all, thanks for this awesome post. I’ll add this to my arsenal. I’d always seen groups of four or more, but hadn’t given a lot of thought to extremely long lists that take up pages. I’d noticed them, but didn’t understand how they functioned and how to execute them effectively. Instead I just read them and felt like they worked well for that author, but if I tried them then they wouldn’t work for me and would just seem boring and out of place. Now I get how to implement them successfully.
I just finished reading Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut seems to be a master of lists like this, among many other things. I’m wondering if you would consider doing a post (or even multiple posts) on him in the future? His story telling is epic and I know I’ll be reading Slaughterhouse Five for the rest of my life. It blew me away. It seems that every other page I was dog-earing and underlining a technique I wanted to steal.
Oh I love lists. Is there any way lists can become too tedious or annoying?
For instance I find myself arguing over wether or not to use and, or, or no conjunctions. I think lists look less annoying if you mix some conjunctions with none.
Original: and milk, and bread, and eggs, and butter, and dog food, and cabbage, and albacore tuna.
Without: milk, bread, eggs, butter, dog food, cabbage, albacore tuna.
Mix: milk and bread, eggs, butter and dog food, cabbage and tuna.
Also it brings into question some writers use of periods instead of commas or ellipses. Or is it all an aesthetic choice?
I love lists as well. When reading this, the first list that popped into my mind was Brother Maynard's from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." I don't think lists worked out too well for Brother Maynard, unfortunately:
Great post. It reminded me of Tim O'Brien's powerful introduction to The Things They Carried. It has never left me.
"The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tabs, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water."
And later, the gut wrenching truth.
"They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak... They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself - Vietnam, the place, the soil - a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity."
Thank you for the reminder.