« PreviousContinue »
composition be undertaken in installments? — And third,
— what should be accomplished in the successive drafts of the speech?
The Time to Be Selected for the Composition of a Written Speech. - Most speakers and debaters, to their sorrow and their grief, have a tendency, that is almost irresistible, to begin the composition of their speeches before they are in any way properly prepared for the task. The consequence is, therefore, that they write hard and furiously for a while, and then consign their precious manuscripts to the wastebasket, knowing well that they are worthless, only to begin the foolish process over again and to be met with the same discouraging failure.
To avoid any such waste of time and energy, the speaker must wait till the time for composition is ripe. This time will be, of course, after all his investigation has been completed, and after he has made an outline of what he wants to say.
Even then, however, the actual time of composition may need to be postponed a little further; for no speech should be composed until the speaker has become so filled with his subject that it is calling for expression. No speech should be composed, either, until the speaker is full of life and energy and entirely recovered from any fatigue due to his labors of investigation. And, finally, no speech should be
, composed until the speaker can summon up before him in his mind's eye the actual audience that he must face with all the demands that they will make upon him. .
In postponing the time of composition, however, there is only one caution to be observed. The speaker should never delay too long, so that he rushes from his desk to the platform with the ink still wet upon his manuscript, or so that he has no period of rest between the labor of his composition and the delivery of his speech. The time must always be selected so that the speaker may become familiar with his manuscript; and, if his speech is memorized, so that he may rest between the time of memorizing and the time for delivery. If this most important caution is not observed, little short of a miracle will save the speaker from confusion, stage-fright, and collapse. Composition by Installments. — Most beginners in speak
ing assume, without question, that a speech may be composed in installments; and, then, on the basis of this assumption, they proceed to commit the greatest of all follies : namely, to endeavor to build up a speech, word by word, line by line, and sentence by sentence, until they have filled up the space allotted. The only result of such a practice in composition is to produce an incoherent, shapeless monstrosity, which the writer has the temerity to call a speech.
Speeches, to be sure, may be composed either as units in their entirety, or in installments comprising any one of their main divisions or their paragraphs; but almost never should a speech be composed in installments comprising less than a paragraph.
The proper length of the minimum installment in composition should always be determined by whether or not it includes a single thought completely developed, and by whether or not the writer can phrase it all in words and remember it all before committing it to writing.
Composition by Successive Drafts. — Another great mistake commonly made by even the most experienced speakers is to write only one draft of a speech and torture an audience with all its obscurity and crudeness of expression. Great speeches, however, are seldom written in this way; and the sooner the beginner realizes this truth, the sooner will he be able to avoid the disappointments of failure in speech-making. If a speech is to be a real triumph, it is often written, not only with a first draft, but with a second, and third, and sometimes even with many more.
In the first draft of a speech, a writer should compose at white heat with all the rapidity that he can muster; caring nothing for polish and precision, but only to get his thoughts on paper in the order in which they naturally arise.
In the second draft, then, the writer may proceed leisurely, and with great deliberation revise each statement to make it clear, fluent, and forceful.
If a third draft is necessary, the writer should not hesitate a moment to undertake the work of composing it; and this process of revision through successive drafts should never cease until the finished speech not only reads well, but speaks well. This is the only method of composition by which a speaker may be sure that his address is worthy of himself and worthy of the occasion that calls it forth.
(B) Composition of the Extempore Speech Composition of an Extempore Speech. - The method to be followed in composing an extempore speech resembles very closely the method for a written speech; and yet it involves certain characteristic differences to which attention should be called. The extempore speech, of course, is impossible, unless it is built from a clear mental or written outline prepared in advance. In the process of composition, the main points in this outline will be used to provide the leading ideas for all the main divisions of the speech and especially for its paragraphs.
To this extent, the composition of an extempore speech resembles that of a written speech; but, from this point in the method to be followed, certain characteristic differences should be noted. In the composition of an extempore speech, it is absolutely necessary that the outline should be memorized, and, in most cases, that it should be memorized by visualization; that is, by a process that enables the speaker to see it clearly in his mind constantly before him.
The next difference is, that, instead of making written drafts of the successive parts of the speech, the speaker must take each main topic in his outline and say over and over to himself the thoughts by which it is developed, until gradually he falls into certain fixed expressions that convey his meaning best.
The third and last main difference is that the speaker must fix in his mind the exact transitions that he will use in passing from each thought to the one that follows. These little, unobtrusive words, phrases, clauses, and sentences, that mean so much for ease and clearness of expression, pass almost unnoticed in the work of written composition; but, in the work of extempore composition, they should assume equal importance with the most weighty thoughts to be presented; for, unless each of these transitions is anticipated, the speaker may be brought to a dead halt and be at an utter loss to see how it is possible to make the jump from one main thought to another.
(C) Composition of the Rebuttal Speech Composition of a Rebuttal Speech. — The rebuttal speech should always assume the form of an extempore speech; and all that has been said, therefore, about the composition of an extempore speech applies with equal force to the composition of a rebuttal speech. In addition to these sugges
1 See pages 256-258.
tions, however, certain other suggestions should be made that apply particularly to the composition of rebuttals.
The main object of a rebuttal speech is to meet and overthrow all the proof advanced by one's opponents. The preparation for such a speech requires, therefore, that the debater shall anticipate, so far as possible, every point that an opponent could make against him, whether or not the point is relevant, irrelevant, admitted, or waived.
His next step, then, should be to group these points under topic headings that suggest the bearing of each point on the controversy. One convenient heading might be Interpretation of the Question, and the other headings would always correspond to the established main issues.
With the points thus grouped, the debater should then transfer them to separate cards of convenient size for handling; and, under each point, indicate the answer to be given.
An extremely important suggestion in this connection is that every argument in rebuttal must be concise and crushing, or it is worthless. The debater, then, should seek to overthrow each point in opposing proof by a single, striking sentence, whenever this is possible.
When a complete set of rebuttal cards has been made out, then the debater should shuffle the pack; draw at random from it various combinations that may represent different opposing cases; and train himself to speak on the points that he has drawn, by arranging them in logical sequence and going over his replies again and again orally, until he can speak fluently on any combination.
If, then, the debater will have in mind some definite Conclusion for his rebuttal that will summarize his own case, and, if he arranges this Conclusion with an appropriate transitional opening, he need never have any fear for his success in composing a satisfactory rebuttal.