What can we learn about writing from the, Karate Kid and a, Fish?


So, what can we learn about writing from the, Karate Kid and a, Fish?

Remember the famous line from the movie, Karate Kid

The Karate Kid

“Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off”?

I bet that line can teach us something about great writing. 


And what can we learn from a, Fish?

Of course I’m not talking about fish that live in the sea  but the, Fish, that, (at the time of this blog post), lives and writes books like, Save The World On Your Own Time, Postmodern Sophistry: Stanley Fish And The Critical Enterprise and Fugitive In Flight: Faith, Liberalism, And Law In A Classic TV Show.


This is not my idea but one I’ve played around with from the awesome, Stanley Fish.

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read OneHe birthed the whole, Karate-Kid-can-help-you-write-the-perfect-sentence idea, not me.  He, who wrote the book, How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One. He, who happens to inspire me...

In the 1984 movie, the Karate Kid, the main character is taught to fight but not by participating in a real fight. He is encouraged by his mentor to repeat (endlessly, annoyingly and pointlessly, it seems to the kid), the same process over and over. As the kid continually practices the formal motions of painting fences and waxing cars he learns what he needs to know and when he needs it, it will come naturally and automatically. 

Fish’s idea is, when you practice, and practice, and practice a craft or a sequence of exercises, and in this case you practice the art of writing rather than actually writing anything specific (see the article here) eventually you will be capable of writing something great.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

For Fish, it’s about being able to use form and structure, then discipline and practice, and when you have built your writing muscles, talent takes over (Er, that’s if you have any?)

Anyway , for me, it’s about being able to paint pictures with words that other people can understand and grasp by actually seeing those pictures via the words you write.
As you know, I love Jean M. Auel's work and her newest book enthralled me (some have told me they hated her book). However, I finished it and I have my own opinion of how good the last book in the series is but I won’t elaborate here. I will, however, mention one particular scene in the book that I saw very visually and I was impressed.

Here it is, (and to me it was a great sentence)…

“Across the opening were a series of eleven large black dots and two negative handprints that had been made by placing a hand on the wall and spattering red color on and around it. When the hand was taken away, a negative impression of the hand remained surrounded by the red ocher”.

I could see these images when I read the words used to describe what the characters were viewing in the cave. The first sentence I didn’t “see” because I was asking, “What is a negative handprint”? I had a rough idea but the second and describing sentence gave me more details and a complete visual.

I hope you saw it too.

I’ve never been in such caves but I can imagine and see those, negative handprints, from her excellent use of “word pictures”. 

Now that, to me is, WOW-worthy-good-writing.


~ Zak the writer ~
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