"A few hours ago, President Obama stood with parents who lost children in the Newtown tragedy and said: "All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington."
That's because a minority of senators blocked legislation that would have made America safer and better protected our kids. Forty-five lawmakers stood in the way of improvements to the background check system that would keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally unstable -- something that 90 percent of Americans support."
He goes on to say that this is just "round one" and he's not done fighting...perhaps you've already read it.
Anyway, I'm in no way a statistics person, so I'm wondering if you all might know where the "90 percent" came from - or any other thoughts on the matter you might like to share.
Thanks for your time.
Again, no references and I'm to lazy to look it up. The question was asked: "How good are you at X?" What researchers found was that the more a person knew about X the less confident they were about how much they knew or how good they were at X.
They asked the question. Then educated the respondent about X, then re-asked the question. Most people lowered their confidence level. People that started with knowledge either started with a lower confidence level and stated there or their confidence level went down even more.
Learning From the Experts - Past and Present Tense
One of the best ways to learn technique is to study the experts, and Richard Russo undoubtedly qualifies. He’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls which, if you haven’t read it, I recommend you stop reading this instant and head straight to your local bookstore. But, just in case you don’t, here’s the back-cover blurb:
"Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter, Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it’s Janine, Miles’s soon-to-be ex-wife, who’s taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it’s the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town – and seems to believe that “everything” includes Miles himself."
I chose Empire Falls for today’s example because, in it, Mr. Russo employs both past and present tenses – but he does so for specific reasons. Much of the story is told from Miles Roby’s POV in third-person, past tense:
"What drew Miles Roby’s anxious eye down Empire this particular afternoon in early September was not the dark, high-windowed shirt factory where his mother had spent most of her adult working life or, just beyond it, the larger, brooding presence of the textile mill, but rather his hope that he’d catch a glimpse of his daughter, Tick, when she rounded the corner and began her slow, solitary trek up the avenue."
It’s an incredibly long sentence, but it works. Now, compare Miles’s POV above to Tick’s, below:
"Tick’s left arm now hurts so bad that she’s beginning to feel light-headed, and the whole room takes on an odd sheen, blurred at the edges like a television dream sequence. She leans forward, resting her forehead on the cool metal table and listening to Candace shriek until another voice, sounding far off, joins in and a new pair of feet appear next to Candace’s."
See the difference? Now, why would Mr. Russo choose to write Tick’s POV in present tense, rather than in past tense as he does with Miles? I think one reason is because, right now, Tick’s present is all-consuming (remember high school? yeesh.) . She’s living from moment to moment, hopping from one adolescent crisis to the next. Using present tense brings an immediacy to the story when we’re focused on Tick. Miles, on the other hand, has been there, done that. He’s developed some wisdom and tries to take a relaxed approach to things. Past tense works for him.
Now, Mr. Russo didn’t tell me this, and I could easily be wrong about his reasoning. But I don’t think anyone can argue that it flows - and reading great works like this one not only teaches us about technique, it also inspires us. When you come away from reading Richard Russo’s book, you can’t help but want to write your own. If you can, I’ll eat my copy of Empire Falls.
- Oakland University
- www.juliaannweston.comFreelance Writer, 2013 - present
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