As I continue to edit my work in progress and think about meeting readers’ expectations, especially when it comes to descriptive writing, I recently came across and interesting review of Peter Mendelsund’s What We See When We Read, “a book that explores how people imagine and remember the things they read.”
I’ve always been loath to write (and dislike reading) detailed descriptions of characters and settings. I’m OK with details that surface as the story progresses when they are relevant, but one of the fastest ways for me to lose interest in a book or story is a front-loaded block of description sentences which have no other purpose, and an abundance of adjectives and adverbs. She was tall and had green eyes. She stepped over the puddles with her long legs while smiling at Bob, showing off her perfect, white teeth… Ugh.
At the risk of provoking the popular vs. good debate, aspiring writers who wish to write well should study the novels that have endured (let’s call them the works of “masters” for this discussion), not the forgettable books on the top 10 bestseller list this week.
Apocalypse Now is one of the “best” movies ever made, in my opinion (acknowledging that “best” is in the eye of the beholder, though there are a lot of people that think this). More than that, it is a brilliantly told story, albeit the storytelling is via a movie. Of course, it is a retelling of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In case you have missed it, the story is about the descent of one man into insanity to confront another who has already descended to that place. Who knew there is an exceptionally thoughtful review of it on YouTube?
It is hilarious, but also sad. If you aspire to anything in life you need training and mentors. Unfortunately there are people who are either incompetent and don’t realize it, or incompetent and preying on your desire to improve yourself. This is why “selfhelp” books are such a huge business. “How to Get Rich!” or “How to lose weight!” or “Enjoy the Best Sex of your Life!” So given that I spend a lot of my time blog writing, I thought I would share this one. Read this and enjoy it, and all credit to The Onion, but also take it to heart…
In my writing workshop a long debate broke out about adverbs. Why they are evil, when they are needed and when they are not. The participants even offered example sentences of good and bad use of adverbs and when they are and are not needed for clarity.
I’ve not posted much recently. I have been heads down writing and reading to improve my craft. One of the books I’ve read is Stephen King’s On Writing. As a maturing writer, I’m attentive to writing, but also writers. I have long avoided this book because I really do not care for King’s writing. And to be honest, after having read this, I still don’t care for his novel writing.