by Paul Fleischman
Analysis: Writing Style
Styling the Sentences: Keep It Simple
The characters in Seedfolks avoid wordy sentences and fancy shmancy language. Instead, they keep their sentences simple. And because these sentences are unfussy as can be, they also tend to be super short—sometimes to the point that they aren't full sentences at all.
Even when the characters are telling us super emotional stories, they still use a simple, minimal style. Just take a look at the start of Wendell's tale:
My phone doesn't ring much, which suits me fine. That's how I got the news about our boy, shot dead like a dog in the street. And the word, last year, about my wife's car wreck. (3.1)
There's no sugarcoating or elaborating or adjectiving things up. Nope. The whole time he keeps his sentences short and his style straightforward.
Styling the Whole Story: It's One Big Puzzle
Since we've got thirteen different narrators, that means we've got thirteen different stories happening in this book. And these stories don't stand alone. In fact, if we read just one character's chapter, then we're be missing out on other parts of that character's story. Bottom line: Seedfolks gives us an interwoven style, making thirteen separate stories fit together. It's like one big jigsaw puzzle—and we get to see the finished product.
Let's dive into an example.
Take Sam. In his chapter, Sam briefly mentions that he came up with an idea for a competition: "The contest I started came later" (6.4). But how does the contest work? Who wins? Is there a prize? Come on, Sam, can't you give us any details? Nope, Sam barely says a peep about this contest. In fact, that one measly sentence is all he gives us.
Now fast-forward to Sae Young's chapter. She'll give us the rest of Sam's story about the contest. Thanks to Sae Young, we find out all about the competition:
That man named Sam […] When people all the time complain about carrying water, he start contest. He said how adults couldn't solve problem, let children try. He say he give twenty dollars to child under twelve who has best idea. He write this on paper and nail paper to post close to sidewalk. (8.5)
And Sae Young doesn't stop there. She goes on to tell us all about the eager participants, how a little African-American girl comes up with a seriously awesome idea, and how the winning idea is carried out by all the neighbors pitching in. It's actually a totally heartwarming tale. And without Sae Young, we wouldn't have any details to go on.
So this means that in order to understand the whole story, we have to see how each chapter fits together. Sound like a metaphor for how the different people in the garden might fit together? We think so, too.
P.S. Did you notice that Sae Young's English isn't 100% perfect? Keep your eye out for that—each of the characters speaks (writes?) in an authentic way for someone of their background.