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Another example of economy is dialogue both narrating and revealing character.  Among those protesting at city hall, is Sammie Pinkney:
  “The worst part of it was the mayor said to me. . . . ‘Sammie, I been knowing you all your life.’
     I said, ‘Yeah, I been knowing you too, but I’m not the same Sammie you used to know.  I’m a different person now.’
     He said, ‘You were a cop up in New York.’
     And I said, ‘Yeah.  But I’m home now.’” (199)
     A story can be overwhelmed by too much detail, and good profiles are made by the “telling” detail.  So one key to good storytelling is a discriminating eye, one that winnows its material and selects the most revealing details.  As in Gerard’s formula for profiles (“anecdotes and scenes . . . extensive use of the subject’s own words”), places are described in Greene’s story mostly through anecdotal events, and events mostly through people (and other creatures), and people mostly through their vocal chords.  Greene listens for idiom and dialect, and she selects particular details that characterize economically:
  “Come in!  Come in! Let’s have some gossip and slander!” cried an old man living near the sea, whenever a passerby roamed within sight of his porch.  “I believe these young ladies of today might clothe themselves more modestly,” he said.  “Of course, I am getting on and it has been years since I was conversant with the wherewithal and nomenclature of the female.” (23)
In her acknowledgments, Greene mentions a senior editor who “led me and an eight-hundred page manuscript into the world of editorial cuts,” so that we read a trim 335 pages (337).5
     Imagery serves, not as mere ornament, but to clarify, to illuminate a concept.  In a description of the county’s remove from the “riots and civil disobedience and racial confrontations” of Newark, Birmingham, Montgomery and other foreign places, we get:
  And blacks in their distant cabins shut their doors and windows and located, through static, on their radios and televisions, the voices and images of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Bobby Seale.  In Leningrad and Moscow in the same years, Jews and intellectuals drove far into the country to escape the censor’s blackout of the airwaves over the city.  They parked in starry fields in the small hours of the morning and captured fragments, falling from the night sky, of the Voice of America, on black-market radios.  Just this exotic and incredible and forbidden did the voices of the civil rights movement sound to the fishermen, gardeners, and maids of McIntosh County. (36)
Greene also compares the distant civil rights crusade with Biblical events: “The people felt about Montgomery and Selma roughly the way they felt about Mount Sinai and Gethsemane.  The stories of heroes were stirring, but it seemed unlikely that such miracles would occur again, much less locally” (22).  Such imagery points up the epic nature of events in this story.
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     5 It’s a shame that more academic writers don’t find such an editor.  We hear of “death of the author”—I think it’s the editor who died.
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