Thursday, March 4, 2010

Week 5: Just Say the Word, pp. 55-78

Kinda different than Aristotle, huh? What did you think?


Kim Gee said...

In Chapter 8, the author teaches us to show the audience what we mean rather than tell them. He is right, sometimes it’s better to show than to tell, and to demonstrate rather than try to articulate what we mean. After all, don’t actions speak louder than words? I can see how this would be easy to do in a church setting. For example, at my mother’s church a man got up to give the communion medication. He had three nails, a board, and a mallet. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he laid down the board and began hammering in the nails one by one. Then he sat down. I’m left wondering how this works in a closing argument. An attorney could never just stand up in a closing argument and do a demonstration and then sit down. I think chapter 8 and chapter 9 teach us that “showing” the audience doesn’t have to mean an actual demonstration- it can be a story used as a demonstration. For example, we cannot physically see Jesus praying in the garden, but we can see it in our minds and understand its significance by reading the story or hearing the story, especially when described in vivid detail. Thus, if we tell our client’s story in the right way, with vivid details, hopefully the jury will take with them not only the facts of the story, but the significance of the case- that our client has been wronged or has done nothing wrong and the accompanying sense of justice or injustice.

The author stated in chapter 9 that sometimes if storytelling is done well, “it could be done as the whole sermon.” I wonder, could an attorney ever tell a story so powerfully that it was the only thing he said in closing arguments?

Chapter 9 addressed storytelling to children many different times. One of the tips was not to assume airs or put down children. I think this is something we can all use not only in the courtroom but in our daily lives. For example, I went to an exhibit on magic at the science museum over spring break. Magicians were placed throughout the exhibit. There was one magician at the end of the exhibit who did some pretty good magic, but he had an arrogant air to him. In his tone of voice you could tell that he thought highly of himself, and when he talked to the audience he talked only to his other magician friends who had gathered around to watch. The rest of the non-magician audience didn’t like him. Not many people clapped and he struggled to connect with them.

I think chapter 9’s tip to avoid assuming airs and putting down the audience is one of the most important lessons of this chapter. If the audience thinks you are talking down to them by assuming they are incompetent or if the audience thinks you are arrogant and elitist, then two things will happen: they will be offended and they won’t identify with you. If the audience is offended, then they won’t like you or anything you have to say, even if it’s really convincing. If the audience doesn’t identify with you, they will have a harder time trusting you and accepting what you say as truth.

Jonathan Silko said...

I really liked the part of this reading about character development. The author illustrates that there is a fine line between doing to little character development (ie not giving Tobias the turkey a name) and too much character development (ie "acting" out the individual parts and turning your story into a skit).

Although this isn't directly acknowledged in the reading I think that the failures in character development come from the reason for telling a story.

In my own experience, I tell stories for two reasons, to explain an event to my listener or to explain an individual. When telling a story about an event, I tend to get caught up in the plot of the story and forget to develop the characters acting out the plot. Oftentimes I don't even give the characters names. Then, when the lack of a name creates confusion between two characters, I have to go back, and spend time explaining in more detail who the person is by adding a name or more fully defining the individual.

When I am trying to explain an individual to the audience, I tend to go too far the other direction. Often giving a vivid picture of the individual's character and physicial features, but failing to place them in any memorable setting. Here, although I may have perfectly characterized my individual, I have completely lost my story because there is no plot. I have defined my character, but he has defined my story.

I think finding the line for defining my characters is one of the foremost challenges in storytelling for me. I hope that this reading will stick with me as I try to work into my narrative style.

John Brennan said...

The reading remind me of what the professors taught in the advocacy lectures in PC. Also, a lot of it was similar to what Counseller taught in Advanced Trial Advocacy. The examples are nice to illustrate the points being made.

The thing I never had brought to my attention before was the importance of children in the audience. Although children aren’t going to be in the jury, some jurors will be less educated and have simpler minds so it is a reminder they can’t feel as though they are being talked down to or insulted with the stories we tell. The simpler the story, the easier it will be for everyone to remember and visualize.

My two favorite parts were both on page 77 about being surprised and getting right into the story. Since people have short attention spans, it is necessary not to waste any time with unnecessary introductions. Also, being surprised and passionate about the facts will make it easier to understand and seem important. We have know the story well but the jury hasn’t heard it before probably so being enthusiastic about the story helps remind the jury that the issues are important.

Drew Pate said...

I enjoyed this reading. It was informative and easy to read. My favorite part was on p. 71 where the author put in bold and underlined print: “DON’T use “goes when you mean “says”, “said” or some other indication of utterance! [Ditto for “like”: “I’m like ‘Whatta ya doin’?’ and he’s like ‘Nothin’!’”]

When I saw that, I pictured an older man venting during a lecture about how young people speak. The advice is good and it makes sense not to dilute your speech with these words, but it just made me laugh.

There was a lot of good information in these chapters, but I thought a lot of it was review. We have been emphasizing the importance of telling a story and that’s what chapter 9 is all about. It did go into more detail about the elements of the story and specific techniques to draw in your audience, which was helpful. I found the parts about what not to do more helpful though. In particular, on p. 70 the author says to not stop the action to describe the setting. This seems like it could be particularly applicable to an opening statement when the lawyer is telling their story. If he/she is telling a story about how a crime or other incident occurred in a room or other space, stopping to describe the setting could be an easy mistake. This might also come up when a lawyer is coaching his witness. If it is your primary witness, it will not only be important for the lawyer to understand how to tell an effective story, but the witness must also understand.

Luke Lawrence said...

Needless to say, this book was a whole lot easier and quicker to read than Aristotle.

This week's reading did seem a bit like review, as Drew said, but I found quite a few interesting nuggets, and felt like it fleshed out the importance of story telling, and the method of story telling. In chapter 19, I thought that the portion talking about how to address a story to children was very good, and something that we rarely think about. Not being condescending when telling a story is very important if you want it to be effective. Even if we think we are just being nice, or trying to make it simple enough to be understood, our audience will always be people. When arguing in court, it seems important to remember that, while the jury will not be made up of other lawyers, they aren't stupid, and will resent being talked down to in any fashion, including how we chose to word our stories.

Another good point, that I often forget when telling a story, is to avoid making it too detailed. I find myself often getting lost in details when I try to tell a story or describe a scene. I lose sight of the big picture, and by the time I get back on track, my hearers have lost interest. Another point that I sometimes forget is to avoid back-tracking when I remember an important detail that I forgot to mention in its proper place. As the author points out, this derails the whole story, and it is very hard for my hearers to keep track of the story, and put that detail in its proper place when I insert it randomly as an afterthought.

Hunter Lewis said...

This read was a much easier read than any of the Aristotle dialogues. I enjoy the examples that author uses to illustrate his points, and really like the way the book is written as a whole. In terms of what I took away from the reading, I was confused, at first, as to what I was looking for. After reading chapter 8, I really though I had a grasp as to the point of the reading. It stressed that as a rhetor, we must show the audience what we want them to know, instead of just saying what we want them to know. I thought that this chapter would lead into how to physicalize your words and how to project images in the listeners' minds, etc. but found that the chapter took a different twist than I had thought. The physical aspect is not what was focused on, rather the use of words. Interestingly, I think the chapter is seems to use circular support for its arguments, and never really gets anywhere. I found this true in the next chapters as well. It seemed that the author approached his point as more of a what to do and not to do list as opposed to allowing the rhetor to find a style that fits his speech. I was a performance major at Baylor, and have been trained in theatre for years. Granted, story telling is much different than theatre, but they do have overlapping characteristics, as noted in chapter 9 and 10. One of the key lessons I have learned, that was never referenced in the book is that there is no universally accepted style of presentation. This author believes that there is a way to tell stories, and highlites many ways to do this. However, he leaves a gap between the directions he gives and the application. He suggests, for example, that a story teller use pauses. This is one of the most useful techniques in story telling, but often abused by new story tellers. I think the author needs to relay the fact that style is personal to the rhetor, or story teller. I may find it easier to connect to an audience using characterizations because I know my audience will respond well to that. Here, though, the author suggested that a rhetor not use characterizations. Ultimately, I just found this reading discouraging, and too general to help develop a thorough presentation of a story. Granted, I did see the relevance in how story telling is a part of all trial work, but more importantly, story telling is a part of who we, as individuals are. "Have you ever noticed that people who tell good stories are those people whose opinion you respect?"... Just something a professor told me once in class, that I have found to be somewhat true.

Catherine Hoyer said...

I really enjoyed this reading. Aristotle gave me some great things to think about, but this week’s reading gave me some great things to put into practice. In Chapter 8, the author gave some examples of the difference between telling and showing. I thought the examples were helpful in understanding that storytelling is more than just explaining what happened but it is showing the audience what happened. In reading Chapter 8, I thought about a civil trial that I watched a few months ago. Both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys technically told a story during the opening and closing statements, but they never showed the jury what happened. Ten minutes into the trial, jury members were already falling asleep, and you could tell that they were highly confused.

I liked what the author said in Chapter 9 about not being “iffy.” I have never thought about how important that can be in storytelling. But it makes sense that if you, as the storyteller, aren’t even sure what happened, then your audience has no reason to believe anything else that you are saying.

Travis Bragg said...

As a couple of you said, much of the reading reinforced what we learned in Practice Court and Advanced Trial Advocacy. One point was discussed at least three times in Chapter 9, and rightfully so as it is a crucially important point – internalize the story. Whether due to human nature or reinforced in early learning, many people feel the need to write out exactly what they want to say in the speech. This also helps to alleviate some initial anxiety about the task of speaking in front of an audience. But delivering a purely memorized speech creates the possibility, and probability, for two problems.

First the speaker is likely to be too focused on saying just the right words, instead of truly getting across what those words are meant to express. This can also become a problem if the speaker forgets words or sections of the speech. Then the audience can clearly see where the speech goes from scripted to adlibbed. Second the words lose their punch. When the speech is delivered from rote memory rather than expressed from a sense of the story, it loses its power, because the speaker has internalized the speech rather than the story.

Phil Bean said...

This is a much different book than Aristotle, and for me, that's a welcome change. It is much easier to understand. I thought the story about children was interesting because it was a good example of showing the audience the story instead of just merely telling it. Vivid detail and appealing to fond memories of youth seems to be a surefire way of capturing the audience's ears and their imagination. For me, simply reading that passage would not have made much sense. Being childlike can be good in some instances, but it can also be bad. However, the story really showed me what the purpose of the passage is.

In the same vein, the author's examples of different ways to describe a menial task show to truly paint a picture in someone's mind, rather than just making a simple time line. I now know that I need to use vivid detail and imagery when making arguments to put the hearer "in the action."

Ashley Yearick said...

As a whole, I thought this reading was extremely useful and relevant. Once again, like I have so many times before in this class, I thought about the things I’ve been taught on the mock trial team, particularly the things we have been taught related to story-telling. One of the things that stuck out to me in the reading was the author’s comment on our natural tendency to supplement our stories with “explanations”. We often can’t simply trust the audience to “get it”, and by refusing to trust the audience we wind up deflating our own story.

I also found the emphasis on appealing to the senses extremely important. Telling someone that a certain thing is beautiful is not nearly as powerful as describing the beauty of the thing and allowing it to speak for itself. As the book said, while we spend a lot of time in our heads, we spend significantly more time in our bodies, emotions and senses. My general perception is that lawyers and law students often spend entirely too much time in their heads, and perhaps that is a result of the large amounts of time we spend studying the technicalities of the law. But the important thing to remember in trial is in reality, the case isn’t really about the law, it’s about who relates their side of the story best to the jury.

Another thing I found to be critical, and perhaps the single most important thing, is to be natural. Be yourself. Don’t try to be the type of lawyer you think you ought to be, but be yourself. Learn to be comfortable in your own style, your own skin and your own way of thinking and speaking. A jury can spot a fraud or a fake in a split second, and the minute they sense dishonesty or artificiality, you will have a hell of a time trying to win them back over.

All in all, some of the best lawyers I have ever seen were not only brilliant legal minds but were magnificent story tellers. The importance of learning to tell not only a good story but the right story, is simply critical.

John said...

Perhaps I should have used the extra time over break to start this book from the beginning instead of starting with the assignment. Chapter 8 made little sense to me and I’m afraid I missed the whole point. I agree with Mr. Lewis that what appeared to be a lesson on how to physicalize was really circular argument that never really left the ground. For example, the chapter is entitled “Words about words about words about words…” and as Mr. Lawrence correctly pointed out Jacks encourages speakers not to get bogged down in the details. At the beginning of the chapter, Jacks points out that we, as listeners, grow sick of words, especially when they are only about describing other words. Yet, his examples of how to “show” our words are all loaded with details. Jacks says that to show what it means to go to school we need to let the listener know that we march not just into any homeroom but into homeroom 103 and that we don’t just sit in any pew at church, but the church with the burgundy cushions. While I see the usefulness of describing these common experiences, what are these examples if not words about words? To further my frustration, just as I began to make progress on what Jacks could mean when he says “Show—Don’t Tell!” his next chapter is entitled “Tell Me a Story”. So do we show or do we tell?
Fortunately, Chapter 9 begins to articulate Jacks’ point in a clearer manner. It seems that Jacks recognizes that there are really two ways to tell a story. You can tell about it. Or you can Retell it. Retelling it is showing it. As I read on I tried to think about what the difference between telling about something and retelling something meant. Jacks provides a great example of the difference between the two when he discussed keeping the story alive. When we tell about a story we use a passive voice and often use past tense verbs as well, but when we retell a story the story is live. A story retold is a story relived. The story is active and in present tense. I remember different PC professors telling me this on several occasions. Only by putting the reader in the present can we show them the story as though they were actually experiencing it. As the proverb says, “Imagination gallops; Justice merely walks”.

blake whitcomb said...

As Travis noted, I thought one of the best pieces of advice was not writing your story down. I’ve noticed myself getting too hung up on saying the correct (as of the time I wrote them) words and losing the entire point of what I’m saying.

Generally, I thought the reading was a good reminder of proper story telling technique. Some of the advice pointed out tips regarding characteristics that should come naturally for most good storytellers. However, the process of breaking down story structure, labeling the elements, and discussing their application is important because it emphasizes storytelling as a tool with a purpose.

While I recognize that within the book’s scope it was important, I thought it was a little distracting that the author kept jumping over to examples regarding children. However, it did remind me not to talk down to people. I believe lawyers (and preachers) sometimes maintain an air of self-importance that can turn many listeners off. It’s incredibly difficult to get an audience to empathize with you or your characters while they are constantly being reminded of their inferiority.

Kristin Postell said...

The one thing I would have really liked is for the author to have actually given an example of a good story that employed the given techniques. The sermon at the end of chapter 8 made me reminisce about childhood and I was looking forward to a story. Aristotle said a lot about concepts to keep in mind while formulating arguments, but Jacks gave practical advice that can be utilized. He not only imparted how important it was to "show", he illustrated his point through lots of examples. The advice was very practical. I feel like I've been told many times how important it is for my opening and closings to have a story, but this is the first time I've been told how to tell one.

Storytelling is something that we all do naturally every day and I really enjoyed learning about ways to improve. Sometimes we simplify a story and forget to put in all the important descriptions that keep people interested. Sometimes we get so caught up telling all the details that people forget to listen to the story. The best way to tap into the emotions that Aristotle explains we have to know how to show people what you want them to know. This is what invokes the emotions that we use to persuade.

Michael Bernick said...

This reading was much easier to digest than Aristotle. I enjoyed the author’s discussion on appealing to the audience’s senses to peak their interest in the story. This reminded me of what makes great country music. Robert Earl Keen paints an entire world for the characters of his songs to live in which draws in the listener and touches their emotions. Rather than just telling the listener that he and his brother partied hard while growing up in Corpus Christi, Keen walks through memories he and his brother shared, like throwing his ex-wife’s things off a boat pier. Imagery like this expands the story outside of the words used to tell it. But as the author said, too much description can weigh down a story and bore the audience, so use description carefully.

I also enjoyed the author’s suggestion to not memorize a story word for word. I think that knowing the story well but leaving room for ad-libbing allows the speaker to craft the story to his audience, giving the speaker more credibility.

The author had a good point when he talked about no being an “iffy” storyteller. As the speaker, you control what happens in the story, so all of the action should definitely happen, not just kinda.

PETE said...

I really enjoyed the reading. Chapter 8 reminded me of an experience I had serving a church mission in Argentina. We had started teaching this young couple named Carlos and Maria about our church. They had twin boys that were three years old. What was both sad and interesting about Carlos and Maria was that they had been pregnant with twins on two prior occassions. However, both sets of twins died shortly after birth. When it came time for the other missionary and I to teach them about families being able to stay together for eternity, we decided to show them a video to illustrate the concept. The video was about a family's struggle after their daughter's death, followed by their joy at learning that they could be reunited with her after this life. It was perfect. They identified with the family's sorrow and received hope that, like the family in the video, they could also be with thier children again. Showing the video was much more effective than anything we could have said to try and teach them.

With regard to Ch. 9, I agree with what Travis said. If you don't believe what you're saying, you're audience isn't likely to believe it either. I recently participated as a witness in a mock trial competition. Two important lessons that I learned from that experience were the importance of knowing the details of your story and the importance of internalizing it. Knowing your story is more than knowing a list of facts. You have to stand back, look at the big picture, and see how those facts relate to what's not listed. You also have to truly believe that what you're saying is true! During my first cross examination of our competition, I was mistaken about a fact of the case. However, I was so convinced that I was correct that the advocate who crossed me on the fact backed down and accepted my version of the story.

Travis Phillips said...

As many of the others have noted, this week’s reading struck me as much more accessible. However, the reading seemed much more reminiscent of the lessons I experienced from English professors and teachers all through college and high school.

What I found most interesting, on page 68, was the discussion of strong language—if possible, use active rather than passive voice, use present rather than past tense. The discussion felt incomplete, however, because for years I have also been taught that a key to creating strong language, language which creates a sense of immediacy and urgency in the audience, is to avoid the verb “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) inasmuch as possible—that consciously avoiding the use of that verb forces you to use better, and more dramatic, action verbs. Public speaking is not my forte, but that lesson seems to be as applicable to speaking as writing.

I also particularly like page 76, and the “Other Rules for the Storyteller.” However, speaking from my personal background as an English major—I feel that Professor Jacks could have gone further. He states that you should appeal to the senses and the imagination, and gave several examples—however his examples were only adjectival phrases. He in no way delineated that analogy, simile, and metaphor can be used the same way—and I have had several teachers state that such constructs are almost always stronger and more vivid than a general descriptive phrase.

I was also bothered that, in giving examples, the examples were not the best that could be crafted, and the book did not follow its earlier precepts. As an example of appealing to the senses, the sentence “She felt the sun burning against her brow,” was used. The sentence is past tense, rather than present. For that matter, use of a pronoun, such as “she,” is inherently weaker and less descriptive language than using a proper name. If I was trying to set a scene and appeal to the senses, I would not personally say “She felt…”—I would likely be switching between present and past tense, for one thing, and the sentence would not provide enough detail and imagery to give an audience a sense of the setting for the narrative. Instead of “it was hot,” or “she felt the sun burning…” perhaps something such as “Stacy is skating down the street, insects buzzing, sun burning, and a gentle breeze stirring the leaves.” The more action that can be placed into the structure of a sentence, the stronger the sentence.

My overall feel for the reading this week is that it gave good advice, but it did not go quite far enough or into enough detail on how to use language to establish concrete descriptions and scenery within a narrative.

William King said...

“Show, don’t tell” is a motto I’ve seen pop up in various settings over the years – in journalism, creative writing courses and now law school. I think it is the most difficult part of storytelling. As the author stated, the natural tendency, especially for very verbal people, is to over-explicate their story. I do this frequently – I use ten words where two will do, and then my point gets smothered. The author does a great job of delineating the use of imagery versus “words to describe words,” but I really think he hits the nail on the head by linking this section with his discussion on one of the key virtues of being “childlike” – imagination. Opening the listener’s mind and creating receptivity in the audience so that their imaginations can fill in the emotional blanks that constitute the moral or point of your story is the crux of storytelling. Aristotle called it an enthymeme, Jacks calls it being childlike.

The other section I thought was enlightening was the brief discussion on internalizing the story, especially the tip to “learn the thoughts and incidents pictorially.” That’s so simple, it’s genius! The law school advocacy experiences where I have performed poorly have usually been a result of trying to remember a spiel verbatim. I lose sight of the point by over-emphasizing the precise scripted words I want to use. But the pointer “to think pictorially” strikes at the heart of communication in this setting – if you can visualize the picture you’re painting in your own head, it is that much easier to paint that picture for someone else.

My only gripe is that the author glossed over these points. This may be one of the few situations where "words to describe words" would have been helpful.

sameerk117 said...

I enjoyed this reading considerably more than the others. I felt it was on point and did not require any substantial thought to extract the true meaning/purpose. I enjoyed the emphasis put on story-telling. The art of story telling has not been emphasized much in the classes I have taken thus far. Although I have yet to take PC, I definitely would like to learn the intricacies of the skill.

I think a common criticism of most attorneys is the fact that they often come off as condescending. I am sure several of us have been in situations or sitting in on trials where the lawyers simply were not able to draw a picture of what was going on. A story must not only be told but also shown. At least from my limited experiences, this is what has separated a good lawyer from a great one. In the trials I have sat through and helped with over clerkships, the attorney who told the best story has always come out ahead even if the facts were not the best.

Developing and focusing on these type of skills is exactly what interested me about this course. As Kristin noted, I think it would have been beneficial for the author to give us a few examples of a thorough and properly told story. I am sure we will get this in class but it would have been nice to see an example of a good story versus a bad story in print to extract the general details ourselves.

Sameer Karim

Nick Chu said...

I see the Aristotle reading as teaching us how to structure our speech and the Just Say the Word! reading as teaching us how to deliver that structure. The tips in chapter 9 are helpful in fine-tuning that delivery.

This week’s reading about the importance of telling the story reminds me of one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received on public speaking. I know a judge in Austin who is a great speaker. I asked him once if there is anything I can do to be a better speaker. He told me to approach it like I’m telling at story to a friend at the bar. That piece of advice seems deceptively simple and easy but I think that advice incorporates a lot of what this week’s reading talks about.

When I’m telling a story to a friend at the bar, I have to be concise and choose my words to speak at the level of my friend. This way my friend is engaged by the story and doesn’t just stop listening. Having the story be a unit with a beginning, middle, and end; being natural with the delivery; and appealing to imagination are just some rules from the reading that are encompassed in the judge’s advice. For anyone who watches The Office: the episode where Dwight gives an awesome speech to a crowd after he has won salesman of the year; Michael Scott tanked when he was introducing Dwight because he was just telling jokes. Later on though in the episode he meets up with Dwight at the bar and captivates Dwight with a story. Michael later says to the camera, “I captivated the man who captivated hundreds, so in a way I captivated that crowd today.” The logic of his statement is a little off, but there is something interesting in his statement. Telling a story to one person and telling a story to a whole crowd of people rely on the very same principles.

When we see bad speakers, they break a lot of the rules outlined in chapter 9. But at a more basic level they forget that regardless of what they are speaking about, they need to keep it interesting for the listener. I think that this week’s reading gives us very practical ways of keeping the listener interested.

April Holland said...

This week I enjoyed the reading. It was interesting to see how some of Aristotle’s principles come to life in storytelling and are applicable today. For instance, chapter 9 reinforces some of the concepts we discussed in class and in previous readings about knowing your audience and appealing to your audience’s emotions. After reading chapters 8 and 9, Professor Gloer’s stories told in class follow these principles discussed in Just Say the Word. In Professor’s Gloer’s story about the Olympic athlete’s perseverance, he “kept the story alive” by painting a vivid picture and using imagery and appealing to the senses. The story was told in such a way that you felt you were there at the track that day watching the athlete struggle and then overcome his struggle with his father right beside him. Chapter 8 transported me back to when I was a little girl sitting in Sunday School hanging on to every word my teacher said during story time about characters like David, Abraham and Isaac, and of course Jesus. It is interesting to see how powerful not only words, but the message you are trying to convey become through stories. Stories show concepts and principles in a way that not only make it easier to understand, but impact and leave an impression on a person where that person is likely not to forget.

Jean L. Finch said...

Same problem - wash, rinse, repeat. The post-pc students have heard the same "tell jurors stories, don't tell them what to think". Nonethteless, I still think it's unbelievably difficult to find the story that will responate the loudest with the jury, eliminate the non-essential details without over editing, keep in all the essential details without over detailing, and make it interesting.

More examples would help. I still think about Prof. Gloer's reconcilitation story at least once a week. It resonates deeply because it was an incredibly well told story. And yet the ability to recreate that kind of impact through stories in the courtroom has escaped me. It's frustrating to read it in this way that makes it sound so simple and yet see that the ability is still well beyond my reach.

That being said, I greatly appreciate not having to translate the reading into a modern context ebfore I can understand the author's intentions - it's a welcome difference from Aristotle.

Jennifer Salim said...

I initially found myself overwhelmed by the potential circularity of this reading. As trial attorneys, all we have are words. Sure, we have ethos, pathos, logos and all that those entail, but like Kim said, we can’t stand up, do a demonstration, and sit down. Well, we could, but that might be called malpractice? We are supposed to show and not tell, but then, all we have are words and thus, the circle goes round and round.

Then I read this: “If there is a moral to the story, don’t tack it on. Let it derive from the story itself.” Suddenly it clicked. I still get to use words, but we have to be artful enough that the listener forgets our words and instead, finds their self experiencing my message. Now all of the tips make sense. For example, use active tense because it puts your listener in the moment. Don’t use frivolous adjectives because, for example, if your listener where smelling grass, the word “really” or “kinda” wouldn’t come to their mind. Instead, the words “fresh, alive, crisp, damp, etc” would come to mind. And we can tell our jury all day long that something isn’t fair, but if we SHOW them the injustice, they will side with us all day long. Now if only creating this story or image that relays an effective message were as easy as it sounds!

Patrick Sheridan said...

One of the main themes that came out to me from this week’s reading is the necessity to tell a story like painting a picture. Jacks repeatedly referenced the use of “mind’s-eye” pictures and images to help the storyteller. He also emphasized that the storyteller’s biggest asset is “dramatic imagination” through which the listener enters a “story-reality”. At the same time Jacks preaches restraint when painting a story: “Don’t give a detailed account of everything – use details to highlight what is important.” I think that this advice is right on the mark.

In my experience, I think the amount of detail in a story falls along a spectrum. On the one end you have a story with too much detail. This can bog the story down and burden your listeners with so much information that they can’t follow the story very well. On the other end, there is a story with too little detail. This requires the reader to insert all the relevant detail in the story to bring it to life. But without any detail received from the storyteller to trigger the recollection and imagination of the listener, the listener is lost in a world of abstraction and generalization that doesn’t create a picture in the mind. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot: the point where the storyteller has conveyed enough detail that the listener has a starting place to fill in the rest of the “story-reality” with their imagination.

I think this is an effective means to tell a story for the same reason that Aristotle thought that enthamy is such an effective rhetorical tool. The audience supplies their own detail from their imagination and experience to supplement the storyteller’s detail. This actively involves them in the story and draws them into it as they participate in creating the “story-reality”.

David Henry said...

I liked the reading for this week, but I find myself wondering how you really break it down and tell a simple story that everyone can understand when you have a complicated multi-party business dispute happening or something else that inherently is complex…

I did agree with Brennan that a lot of these concepts were things we had hit on in PC and with Drew saying that a lot of it seemed like review. I did like it however that the reading is turning from abstractions in Aristotle to more practical tips for telling a story.

I think one of the biggest obstacles for me when we were doing to PC exercises and trial work was that I had a hard time remembering that the jury doesn't know all of the details of the case that we did. When you look at something for as much time as you do preparing, it was hard for me to keep straight what the jury had been told about and what they hadn't. I agree with some of the other comments on here thought that painting a clear simple picture for the jury of what happened during opening statements is absolutely crucial to keeping their attention. I saw lots of people learn this lesson the hard way.

Vince Ortega said...

This reading meshed well with what we have been taught in advocacy lectures by the Practice Court professors.

Particularly the part about character development. I found myself thinking about being defense attorney for an insurance company when reading about character development and how it's important to develop it to just the right degree. It certainly would be important to develop, or "humanize"- as we are taught, the character of our client in such a case. But by the same token, there could be such a thing as going too far with this development, you wouldn't want to continually remind the jury of WHO your client is and give them too many chances to think about the fact that you represent a large corporation, rather than the individual who is sitting at counsel table next to you. The reading further touches on this concept nicely when it discusses getting right into the story and keeping it interesting without being long-winded. It is important to make the story interesting and to be passionate about your subject, so you don't lose your audience.

Cheryl Blount said...

I really enjoyed this reading assignment. I was reminded of when I first started law school and was taught that with legal writing, less is more. In high school and undergrad, I always thought you had to include a lot of details and vocabulary to write a good story. Chapter 8 in this book brought me back to that realization that I had when I first started law school, that less really is more. Also, I thought it was interesting that this chapter pointed to the fact that people are more persuaded by actions than by words.

Chapter 9 reiterated the point that you should show your audience, rather than just tell them. Instead of describing a character, the storyteller should become the character or show how the character acts and reacts in situations. Also, instead of just telling the audience where the story took place, the storyteller should describe the sights and sounds. The other thing that I thought was interesting was the pointers for speaking to children. I would never think that I could offend children by speaking in a different tone of voice or by using certain language. I guess it just shows that the storyteller needs to be in touch with the audience.

James Reed said...

I enjoyed this reading much more than the Aristotle reading. It was much easier to follow and gave simple concrete examples that illustrated the points very well. I know many times when I am telling a story I completely neglect the characters and do a very poor job of developing them. Most of my focus is on the plot, and by doing so the characters become somewhat of an afterthought. I need to do a much better job of character development.

I also thought the children example was very helpful. I tend to believe that when you are telling a story or giving a presentation that the audience all has the same basic level of intelligence and ability to comprehend the information being presented. After observing a voir dire for PC I found that assumption to be the farthest thing from the truth. It was pretty interesting how hard it was for the attorneys to get the potential jurors to understand the questions being asked, and then to help them give an answer that was in any way related to the question asked. When you are getting ready to tell a story you have to keep in mind that not all of the audience is going to be on the same level as far as their ability to comprehend what you are saying. That can be very challenging when there is going to be some members of the audience that seem to be so far behind the curve.

Brad Kinkeade said...

I usually don't read the other post's but when I was scrolling down to write my post I saw a bunch of people say how this was so much better to read than Aristotle. Now while I agree it was easier to read I still find reading Aristotle fun and enjoyable because I always tried to keep in mind how long ago this was written and how it still holds true today. I never ceased to amaze me to read something he wrote as if I sat down and read it on a blog or in a newspaper.

Just say the word seems to reiterate the opening and closing statement keys that were taught in practice court. First, not using too many words. We were first taught this by professor Cordon who wanted us to keep our memo's to a certain length. As soon as I thought it was short enough I'd still be over but I could always find a way to cut down on the length. Professor Powell harped on the attention spans of the jury. You only have a short amount of time to engage them and persuade them. If you fill it up with flowery/"lawyery" language you will fail to persuade them.
The "don't try to memorize it verbatim" has been uttered verbatim by professor Counseller. He always said that if you're trying to memorize it you will always be searching for that next word and eventually you won't find it. He suggested that you see your story as scenes and you are actually just using these scenes as a story board in you mind to describe what you see to the audience.

Lastly, present tense "gives the feeling of immediacy." This point was stressed by professor Counseller as well when giving opening statements. You want your audience to feel as though the crime just happened. By using present tense you put the audience almost as active participants into the story, engaging them while having them hang on every turn of the story.

James Hatchitt said...

Like James, I did find that the bullet point-style in which the lessons were taught was simple and easy to follow. There were no layers of meaning or an ancient dialect through which to sift.

However, the examples I read didn't really seem to jive with the message. The sermon from Jacks' student at Princeton jumped all over the place: from Teddy bears to sandboxes to spilled lunches to statues of Jesus. I think it was very difficult to discern that the point of the reading was that to be childlike was the key to entering heaven.

We talk about structure all the time when composing opening statements, examinations, and arguments. The goal is to create a presentation that effectively communicates your message. I think the hallmark of a great speaker is the ability to disguise your logical structure within a captivating story. Maybe that's what Jacks is talking about.