Monday, February 26, 2018

Flowers knows best

In the Father Knows Best episode “Kathy’s Big Chance” (November 13, 1957), Jim Anderson (Robert Young) tells daughter Kathy (Lauren Chapin) what she needs to do to write a better essay:

“You should do more reading. Make a lot of notes. Organize your material. And then start writing.”
Jim and Kathy seem well on their way to working out Betty Sue Flowers’s four-part model for a writer’s work: madman, architect, carpenter, judge.

Another struggling writer who could benefit from this model: Sally Brown. In today’s Peanuts, she begins writing a report on “The Ocean”:
The ocean is full of water. “Ha!” You may say. “What else?” That’s a good question.
Then a pause. And then: “Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down on these reports.”

Real-world writers of all ages can also benefit from the Flowers model, whose memorable metaphors make clear that writing well requires many different kinds of work. Granularity and all that. You can’t just sit down with an ocean full of water.

Once I discovered the Flowers model (via Bryan Garner), I shared it with all my classes in my final five years of teaching. I liked to extend the metaphors: start building a house without a blueprint and you’ll be left trying to figure out what to do about bathrooms; start thinking about knobs for the kitchen cabinets when you’re looking at a vacant lot and you’ll never get anywhere.

Betty Sue Flowers knows best.

Other posts about this surprisingly good television series
“Betty’s Graduation” : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House”

[Hulu has all six seasons of Father Knows Best.]

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