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By strong I mean causing some reaction on the reader (not necessarily goosebumps, maybe just a small wow).

I'm having this problem right now. Example (the bolded part):

"He told me about how squirrels collect and store nuts for the winter. Nothing unusual. What's interesting is that sometimes they forget where they bury them. Cute, but odd if you think about it. Like, why did nature give a flawed skill to an animal? Why waste its time? The answer is that nature creates imperfect creatures. And that's because--sorry, do you know how natural selection works?"

[The character gives the protagonist a metaphoric explanation about natural selection]

I mulled this over. I'd never thought about nature that way. Imperfection. Was that the reason allergies, cancers, syndromes, and other genetic disorders existed? How about death?

"But that's a very depressive thought," I said. "That means organisms are just broken machines. Including us."

"Maybe," Cath admitted. "De-Shi didn't see it that way, though. On the contrary, he found it incredible how squirrels were planting all these trees, and doing it without even knowing it. How they were rebuilding parks, woodlands, forests, jungles--home of countless plants, insects, and animals. How they were taking part in something immensely big: protecting the Earth, a planet belonging to a solar system, to a galaxy, to a vast and ever-expanding universe. All because of a tiny defect. All because an innocent mistake from nature.

"I'm not sure why, but after De-Shi finished his monologue, I felt fresh, renewed. I not only saw nature differently, but my own life as well. True, I was imperfect, and I would probably always live in pain. However, that didn't make my existence worthless; there was still space for amazing things to happen. For the sun to shine in. For trees and beautiful forests to grow.

Like, in this case, what would make the bolded part stronger? Making it longer? Adding short sentences? Or using a different choice of words, perhaps?

EDIT:

This is something that I consider to be strong. And it's very similar to my passage. It's from the movie Adaptation:

Point is, what's so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There's a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they're designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live - how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way.

  • Thanks for the quick response; I'll reopen. Any further clarification of "strong" that you can add will help the question; maybe you could provide an example of something you consider to be strong, that evokes the kind of feeling you're going after? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Mar 13 '15 at 15:42
  • I think this is very close to being a general critique request. – Neil Fein Mar 13 '15 at 15:43
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    @Monica Cellio♦ OK, I added an example of what I find to be strong. – Alexandro Chen Mar 13 '15 at 15:44
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    I actually think your existing bolded passage is better than the one you quoted. Matter of fact I consider the Adaption passage pretty lame. For starters why use a highfalutin word like 'soul-mate' when the passage is attempting to justifying promiscuity. (and failing to use 'honey' as a metaphor? Common ;P) It also doesn't describe what 'large and magnificient' happens, so it's not clear exactly 'how to live' and why 'the only barometer [we] have is [our] heart'. After I really analyze it, I actually consider it to be a very POOR passage. – public wireless Mar 13 '15 at 16:16
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In general, for a passage create an emotional reaction, the reader has to be able to relate to it. First, determine the point you want to make. Next, make your point in a way your intended audience can relate to. Using metaphors helps, as does using visceral language that really drives home your message.

For example, first determine if the point you want to make is that a) nature produces truly flawed creatures who thrive anyway, b) creatures' perceived 'flaws' are not really flaws at all but essential to their continued existence, or c) something else entirely. Once you determine that, drive your point home with an interesting example, analogy, or metaphor. I like your existing passage in bold as-is, because in my mind I picture those cuddly little creates going about their merry way doing what they do, and being completely oblivious to the significance of their actions. But keep in mind, other readers may not be as familiar with squirrels or may not get the same mental image. There's only one way to be sure the reader gets the message you're striving for and that's to give it to them. You could expand your passage by choosing to describe in detail the effort needed to acquire and preserve a nut, only to have it not matter in the end. Or you could describe how us humans benefit from the actions of these unknowing creatures. Bottom line, it really depends on what you want to say and saying it in a way your audience can relate to.

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What makes a passage strong is almost always its context. We walk by the wonders of nature unseeing everyday. Only at certain times and in certain moods or circumstances do we pause to notice them or be moved by them.

Squirrels accidentally plant forests by hiding nuts and forgetting where they put them. By itself, that is a mildly interesting fact. In the right context, that mildly interesting fact could illustrate a broader truth about the universe, which is what you are going for here. So far so good, your passage does that well. But for it to have a profound emotional impact on a person (or an audience) we have to be in the right mood and circumstances to receive it. We have to be in a moment in which this truth makes a profound impact in our lives or how we understand them.

Your passage states that this happens. But whether the audience will feel this strongly will depend on whether what comes before puts them in a receptive mood. With the right setup, a truth like this can be devastating. With the wrong one it can be as banal as a grade school science fair. It's all in the setup.

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The passage is making too many assumptions, and does not really open much of a dialogue with the reader. The De-Shi character is just kind of thrown at us without really explaining who they are, and why we should care about what they are saying.

There is also very little supporting evidence of forests that are planted by squirrels. Sure, a handful of acorns may germinate, and some trees may grow as a result, here and there, but there is no evidence presented which would make us think that entire forests are being planted. Trees reproduce in many different ways. This is simply one way that it can happen.

It is true that things in nature are interconnected. Seeds are spread by many different kinds of animals. Flowers are pollinated by bees, and other insects, as well as by humming birds, and the wind. The flowers themselves have bright colors, and sweet smells which attract insects. The flowers also produce an excess amount of pollen, which is enough for the bees to convert that to honey and feed their hive, which in turn feeds other animals, including people.

It is also true that many living organisms have flaws. The argument that we have flaws for a reason is very weak. Sure, there is a positive side effect for some of the flaws in nature such as with squirrels, but not all flaws are positive. What is the purpose of a human being getting cancer, or some kind of other disease?

The point I am trying to make is that a writer doesn't need to get into lofty discussions about how the world works to have an impact. Especially if the writer does not have a complete understanding of the subject. The reader will not necessarily have a passionate response to something just because the writer intends it to be about a passionate subject. You can't guilt someone to be passionate, you must engage them in the conversation, and give them enough information for them to arrive at the place where you are. Sure, this is something you believe in, but you need to tell the reader how you arrived there, so they can follow along.

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