Friday, August 5, 2011

Impromptu: Quotes vs. Abstracts

Kids who compete in impromptu tend to have a preference as to whether they prefer quotes over terms, phrases, pictures, ect. The cool kids call these more vague topics "abstracts." Ok, everyone calls them that. And I guess since we're homeschooled, none of us are cool. But anyway. We like quotes or abstracts. And since we're the argumentative type, (don't you dare say, "No, we aren't!") we can be pretty passionate about which side of the impromptu topic spectrum we prefer. For example:
Quotes are clearly the way to go. I mean, really, they tend to just come up with and state your theme of your speech for you. You get a quote like "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." from Gandhi and the speech practically writes itself. Gentleness. B00M. Done. Plus, you sound way smarter quoting Gandhi rather than saying "My topic is whipped cream" or something else that is abstract and therefore completely random and vague. Plus, maybe you can even use the guy who said the quote as an example and blow your judges' minds with your superior knowledge and awesomeness. Can't do that with an abstract now, can ya? I didn't think so. Another advantage: quotes can get pretty wordy. Abstracts tend to be one word or a only a couple words. Long quotes mean less time you have to fill up in your intro and conclusion. Just read the quote. If you're kinda stuck, read it again for "dramatic effect." And sometimes, the abstracts are pictures. They aren't even words! What kind of a speech topic is that? Where am I supposed to go with this? And do you know how awkward it is if you have to show your judges your impromptu picture topic? Ridiculous. Quotes are better, because they spell out your thesis for you and make the whole speech easier.
Of course, let's not forget:
Obviously, abstracts are the better option. I mean, you can go a ton of different directions on an abstract. Take, for example, "flat tire." You can relate a flat tire to something bad that happens. You can show that flat tires are unexpected occurrences and talk about those. You can explain that flat tires can be repaired and you just keep on rolling. You can discuss the importance of keeping a spare, or of being prepared for the flat tires in your life. You can talk about all of these things in one speech and more, because your topic isn't super specific and gives you that kind of freedom. Plus, it's really hard to misinterpret an abstract. With quotes, it's super easy to do it wrong. Another advantage: the abstracts are short. You don't have to waste half your prep time reading wordy quotes and attempting to properly interpret them according to the judges' subjective standards. Just read the abstract terms, choose one, and B00M, you've still got 1 minute and 50 seconds of prep time remaining.  And sometimes, the abstracts are pictures. That means even less prep time is wasted reading because you just have to look at your topics! And homeschoolers can't read, anyway. With abstracts, especially pictures, you're allowed a lot more liberty and creativity in choosing a thesis. 
My first year in speech, I was terrified of impromptu. I couldn't imagine why anyone would do it, especially with an abstract topic. I totally thought quotes were the way to go because they make it a lot easier to decide what you're talking about. Then I forced myself to do impromptu and quickly changed my mind. After giving my second ever impromptu speech on "Giant Sequoia," a color on a paint chip, I realized how much easier I can breathe with an abstract. I can do whatever the heck I want with that topic and not misinterpret it! It's great! ABSTRACTS FTW!!

So, where do you stand?
You're homeschooled, and you like quotes. Or abstracts. Or neither. Or both. Or something.  MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

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