A Tired Child’s Analysis:
What I can learn from “Send Out Succor” by Angela Palm:
I must admit… after I first read this short piece, I stared out into space, wondering what the hell I just picked to write a presentation on. There seemed to be so many details and moments in this story that came and went. There was not a simple resolution, not a clear storyline; this was unlike any other work of non-fiction that I had experienced—it seemed closer in style to poetry than to a classic story.
I was unusually drowsy that day, so I decided to set aside “Succor” and re-visit within the next few days, so I could focus the best of my analytical powers on it all at once.
Upon re-visiting, the first thing that caught my attention (and really convinced me that this piece has deeper meaning) was the title’s acronym—and it’s recurrences in the story. “Send Out Succor” basically means “send help:” S.O.S. (I always thought it was “save our ship”)…
Anyways, after this frighteningly obvious realization, I began to notice many other recurring patterns. For example, every childhood memory in paragraph 1 is associated with various coding and signaling techniques (from morse code to the French language). I knew that I was on to something, and the best part about it was that I felt like Sherlock Holmes himself (ironic. My last name is Watson).
So here is the first thing I learned from Palm’s “S.O.S:”
- Make the reader feel like Sherlock Holmes. There is nothing better than the feeling of an epiphany. When writing a story, do not simply tell the conflict as if it was a historical fact. Let actions and dialogue and odd memories act as the tangible form of emotion in the story. Make them clues for the reader to pick up and think about for a while (personally, I don’t care if the reader doesn’t pick up any clues the first time around. But don’t hide them to the point where they’re invisible. I say hide them in plain sight).
1.5. Actually, this will be my 1.5th talking point. Hide your clues in plain sight. Make them the details of the story of which the reader will question their existence. This is a slightly surreal element of writing. Not always good to use, but I will definitely try it out. I’m interested in this type of writing.
- Don’t let the title: “Non-Fiction” ruin your creativity with how you structure a story. You may structure your story however non-linear you want it to be.
- Plan it all out before you write it. I’m not talking about history essay planning—I’m saying that you should create a thematic web of ideas. Why should this detail go here? What does this sentence mean to the grand idea I have in mind?
- This strategy includes the usage of parallelism. “S.O.S.” taught me to hint at details from the end in the beginning. The “liver for dinner” line is a mysteriously and coincidentally(?) coded parallel to the last line of the piece, which is repeated 5 times, and is also in a form of code (to the policemen).
There are many more aspects to this story that I wish I could cover in this blog post. This, however, sums up the main inspirations I drew from the short work of non-fiction. Kudos to Angela Palm for writing on such a high level.
More talking points:
Jung’s principle of Synchronicity is present in this story. Jung defines Synchronicity as a “meaningful coincidence;” an “acasual connecting principle.” To summarize, there is basically a meaning behind every strange event in this story. It’s as if every character in this story shares a completely equal subconscious notion about the world. The narrator, for a somewhat “magical” reason, is careful not to flash her morse code flashlight as an S.O.S. signal as a kid. This is exactly what her grandmother does to the aunt and uncle. She prevents them from sending an S.O.S. signal to the cops, and brainwashes them.
The narrator’s messages to the stars as a kid could be a metaphorical attempt at communication with the past. In narrator’s subconscious, she could be wanting to be near her aunt and uncle as they were experiencing these moments.