Thursday, March 11, 2010

How NOT to Write a Novel

Had to give a quick plug to this little gem, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman --which, by the way, is worth reading even if you aren't planning on writing a novel. Several times I have laughed out loud at the examples of errors they use to illustrate what to avoid when writing a novel. There are lots of books on how to write, but this one is far more useful. The two authors write comic gold and never fail to give you insights into things you may not have thought in your own writing about or to reinforce points that you may academically know but have failed to put into practice.

Here's a brief sample:

The Redundant Tautology

Wherein the author repeats himself

An old man nowadays, with gray hair and wrinkles, Captain Smothers walked down the street to his weekly card game. Usually he would meet Katz on his way, and sure enough, coming down the street towards him he saw his old friend, Major Katz, who was as old as he was. It was the usual day they always arranged to meet for a game of chit with retired Rear Admiral Chortles. The three men, all former members of the armed forces, played chit, the card game known as "Priest's Delight" in Ireland, every Sunday. It was something they had never failed to do since they began the tradition. Katz joined Smothers and greeted him. "Hello," he welcomed Smothers.
"Hello," Smothers greeted him in return. The aged, decrepit, grandfatherly Katz was wearing a clean shirt and freshly ironed pants with shoes. He looked neat as usual. Smothers' shirt, however, was wrinkled and needed ironing; he had never been as neat as Katz, but rather untidy, though he too, like Katz, was formerly in the army, but no longer. You would have expected an Army man to develop a habbit of neatness, but Smothers somehow never had, and remained quite sloppy...

Another version of this is the "large gray elephant," or the "rectangular room with a floor, walls, and ceiling." While it is not absolutely a shooting offense to characterize an elephant with attributes that all elephants possess, it is a yawning offense. "An aroused and angry elephant" gives us a specific striking mental picture. "A large gray elephant" gives us two extra words.

Oh, and I just found out about Salad Fingers. Awesome stuff! I guess I slept through 2005, but if you did too, and you like creepy, weirdo flash cartoons, check it out here.

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