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BMRs, Blow-Ups, and Implants: Generative Forms of Revision

Assignment Summary

These generative techniques of revision are based on the ideas of Francis Christenson, a professor of linguistics at San Francisco State University.

BMR (Buch Method Revision)

The BMR is a generative method of revision useful for adding depth to student writing. Here is how it is done:

Pick a paragraph and number each sentence. This means that you put a 1 in front of your first sentence, a 2 in front of your second sentence and so forth.

Rewrite the first and second sentence exactly as they are without making any changes to them.

Then write a new sentence that says something more about sentence number 2. Call this 2a. So far we have 1, 2, 2a.

Then rewrite sentence number three exactly as it is in your original text and then write another sentence after it that says something more about sentence number three. Call this 3a. Rewrite number 4, create a 4a and so on through the paragraph.

You are quite free when you revise your text to add these new sentences if you feel that they add to your text. You should also feel free to leave out these new additions if you feel they are redundant and simply done to satisfy the requirements for the BMR.

Here is a student example of a BMR. First, the original paragraph:

(1) Mark was driving his old Ford Fairlane doing about 50 on Lake City Way when some idiot on a Harley trike blew by us like we were standing still. (2) It was a guy fitting the typical biker picture driving the bike-big, fat, lots of black leather. (3) Sitting behind him was a girl, not a day past 16-if that old. (4) To impress her, or scare her, who knows, he pulled the trike in front of us as soon as he passed us-so hard that he wiped out. (5) As Mark slammed his brakes and swerved wildly to the side I watched almost as if in slow motion as the girl, blond, and pretty, was thrown from the bike--airborne, and I saw her legs wrap around a telephone-pole in a direction nature never intended.

Here is his BMR:

(1) Mark was driving his old Ford Fairlane doing about 50 on Lake City Way when some idiot on a Harley trike blew by us like we were standing still. (2) It was a guy fitting the typical biker picture driving the bike-big, fat, lots of black leather. (2a) Silver rhinestones and spikes adorned his gloves and jacket. (3) Sitting behind him was a girl, not a day past 16-if that old. (3a) Her hair flew about in wild streamers in the wind; the little fool wasn't wearing a helmet. (4) To impress her, or scare her, who knows, he pulled the trike in front of us as soon as he passed us-so hard that he wiped out. (4a) The bike abruptly tilted on its axis and began cartwheeling wildly. (5) As Mark slammed his brakes and swerved wildly to the side I watched almost as if in slow motion as the girl, blond, and pretty was thrown from the bike--airborne, and I saw her legs wrap around a telephone pole in a direction nature never intended. (5a) Of the biker I saw nothing.

All of the added sentences give more depth and description to this paragraph.

Here is another student example of a BMR:

(1) We were in our new house in Yorkshire, New York. (2) It was the first of many winters that would stick in my mind as dew on the morning grass of spring. (3) I remember waking up on a particular morning and seeing the first remnants of snow. (4) I felt as if I were the first person in the whole neighborhood to see this and I wanted to wake my parents up or at least my mother for she would understand the excitement and wonder that I was feeling at the time. (5) I felt my father would just bitch at me for waking him up.

Here is the BMR of this paragraph.

(1) We were in our new house in Yorkshire, New York. (2) It was the first of many winters that would stick in my mind as dew on the morning grass of spring. (2a) The rest just built upon the first and that makes it more enjoyable. (3) I remember waking up on a particular morning and seeing the first remnants of snow. (3a) The whiteness, the purity, life at its beginning looked this way. (4) I felt as if I were the first person in the whole neighborhood to see this and I wanted to wake my parents up or at least my mother for she would understand the excitement and wonder that I was feeling at the time. (4a) It was she that made me realize that we must always have fun in what we do. (5) I felt my father would just bitch at me for waking him up. (5a) He always seem to be out of sorts this time of the year.

While 2a is perhaps weak and simply done to satisfy the requirements of the BMR, notice how 3a really adds to the overall impact of the paragraph. 4a gives us relevant information while 5a hints at problems he may be having with his father. If the author were to incorporate this paragraph into a subsequent draft he may not wish to include 2a, but all the other segments of his BMR greatly improve the impact of the paragraph. When we BMR a paragraph we do not say something more about sentence number one because sentence number two already does that. If it does not then we need to start a new paragraph. If any of the other sentences do not refer back in some way to the one before them we might consider moving it to a new paragraph.

Implant


The main clause...exhausts the mere fact of the idea; logically there is nothing more to say. The additions stay with the same idea, probing its bearings and implications, exemplifying it or seeking an analogy or metaphor for it, or reducing it to details.

Francis Christenson

Francis Christenson, a professor who taught at San Francisco State University, examined the typical English sentence as written by professional writers and discovered that it consists of a base clause or main clause which tells us something, and a phrasal modifier which shows us something.

In the following sentence written by Madam Chinchilla, "We watched the tribal chiefs, stately and corpulent, walk to their appointed seats under the shade of the banyan tree," the base clause is "We watched the tribal chiefs walk to their appointed seats under the shade of the banyan tree." She has implanted the phrasal modifier "stately and corpulent," into the sentence to show us what the tribal chiefs are like. Notice how this implant greatly enhances our vision of the tribal chiefs.

Christenson identified many types of phrasal modifiers. The adjectival phrase, simple, lucid and illuminating (the only phrasal modifier that we will ask you to use) is a series of adjectives or phrases that says something more about a noun. Hence in Chinchilla's sentence the phrase "stately and corpulent" implanted after the noun "chief" tell us more about him. While there are many other ways of adding to our knowledge of the tribal chiefs, the adjectival phrase that Chinchilla uses is short, to the point, and cuts through a lot of verbiage.

Here are some examples of adjectival implants taken from anthologized selections in my textbook:

In the shallows the dark, water-soaked sticks and twigs, smooth and old, were undulating in clusters against the clean-ribbed sand, and the track of the mussel was plain. (E.B.White, "Once More to the Lake")

...I watched him, his hairy little body, skinny and bare. (E.B. White)

I walked down the dark street alone, past houses set back off the street, through the darkness, past privaate hedges, under elm trees, through air rich and ripe with promise. (Jean Shepherd, "The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night and the Tinfoil Noose")

Here are some examples of Implants taken from essays done by students:

Death is something the world has yet to learn to accept.
Death, devastating, horrible and traumatic, is something the world has yet to learn to accept.

The thought of the unknown makes us fear death.
The thought of the unknown, hidden and suspicious, make us fear death.

Younger people grew up watching movies.
Younger people, rowdy, immature, and ignorant, grew up watching violent movies.

It may be helpful for students to look at their sentences when they write and see whether they would benefit from an adjectival implant. Obviously implants should not be overused. Adjectival implants are also very useful for reducing long passages into short powerful statements by cutting through excess verbiage.

Blowups

In the sentence "I went to my Aunt Suzy's house on Elm Street," we get very little detail about either Aunt Suzy, the house, or Elm Street.

A blowup is simply a paragraph or even a series of paragraphs that elaborate and say more about something. Thus we could blowup Aunt Suzy by describing her features, telling more about our relationship with her, or anything else that is pertinent to the text that we are writing. We could do the same with her house or with Elm Street. A blowup is used when more detail is necessary. A blowup that is already in a text can be reduced to an implant making it more compact. You need to decide for yourself or ask your editorial group which will function best.

Here is a student example of a Blowup. The original sentence is: "We were born in our house in Yorkshire, New York."

Yorkshire is not a large town. I don't even think it is on the map. I do know that I grew up there and that my life was founded there. I learned what was right and wrong from my parents. I also learned what few parents teach their kids: honor, respect, and responsibility. Throughout my life my dad was strict. I can still hear him reminding me that he will not have his kid ...

The Blowup, as this example illustrates, is not just a technique for adding more detail. It can also be highly generative. In this example the author begins by saying more about the town of Yorkshire and in the process begins to explore his relationship with his father.

Instructor's Comments

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genre narrative, textual analysis, argument, profile, survey, summary and response
course WRT 101 and up
activity type individual revision exercise
skills generative revision, holistic revision, sentence-level revision, paragraph-level revision
duration not applicable
materials/readings
draft of essay
handouts: none
contributor: Richard Buch