Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Full Circle -- writing tip

Question: I had a call from one of those tiny magazines they give away in real estate offices. They asked me to do a regular monthly feature for them on "something humorous about houses or housekeeping..." They said I could pick anything I wanted, as long as it comes "full circle and is less than 2000 words long. I can do them ahead, too. turn in two or three and in a couple of months, a few more. Sounds great, except that I have no idea what "full circle" means. What now?

Answer: Such a regular column is always nice and it certainly enlivens your writing resume, to say I was a featured columnist for Tidewater Times or whatever they call the one where you live.

Years ago when I wrote four articles a month for a small hospital weekly giveaway called Healthways, the editor, who was fairly easy to work with, liked the idea of “disease of the week with humor." I could turn them out in 15 minutes and got $25 each — half my van payment at the time. Still, now and then he’d call and say, “I can’t use the one on ____, it doesn’t come full circle.”

Neophyte that I was, I was ashamed to admit I didn’t know what he meant and scoured books on writing to no avail. I’d send him the ordered rewrite and sometimes that was okay and sometimes he’d just call and say, “try something else.” I just didn’t get it.

Finally, one day after I had wailed, “I did the best I could” in his ear for the 20th time, I took a big gulp and admitted I didn’t know what “full circle” meant. Surprise, it was that the end, or conclusory paragraph should be tied to the lead, summing up or reiterating the point.

Any fan of Andy Rooney should recognize the technique. He was a master at coming full circle.

Such a simple little thing, and it seemed so clear once he had explained it. Yet the only writing text I’ve ever seen that describes the technique is the Writer’s Digest articles course, and even it doesn’t use the term “full circle.” Yet many editors have used it to me over the years, especially when dealing with personal experience, opinion, or humor pieces.

1 comment:

  1. One of those infuriating insider tricks that no one bothers to tell you!