by Anna Yang, Austin
‘The’ or ‘A’ sets the tone for a story. Can you feel the aura changing as soon as you hear ‘the,’ a definite, distinctive, person that we all should have known beforehand or ‘a,’ an arbitrary human randomly selected? ‘A’ distances readers; ‘the’ draws them closer. ‘The’ can be shown as more important to a story; ‘a’ can signify that the object or subject being talked about is less needed. ‘A’ loves to introduce new, supporting characters. ‘The’ is an old friend that smiles warmly at you or a worn-out, much-loved sweater that is continuously slipped on throughout a lonely narrative. Consider these two sentences: The girl walked up to me. A girl walked up to me. ‘A’ makes someone feel less needed, more common. ‘The’ turns someone into a shining jewel in the midst of dirt and dust. Listen to these two similar quotes: “I want to win a trophy!” “I want to win the trophy!” In the first, we can assume that there are many trophies and that the person would be fine with any one of them. Perhaps we can even infer that the person isn’t picky or choosy–that the person is satisfied with simple, small victories. The second makes the character sound potentially ambitious, wanting more, determined to win the one solitary trophy. We should always pay attention to how we use small words, for it is they that make up the backbone, the mood, the nuance of the story.