Following from the previous post, I was going to jump straight into the next part (the writing of dense, cumulative descriptions), but then I realized that post might have left some points unanswered or not appropriately explained. So, in this post, an intermission of sorts, I will try to show, almost quantifying it if possible, the limits of the “painting with words” approach to descriptive writing.Continue reading “More limits of description (II)”
I was sure I had already published this post, but I had not. I “remembered” this post when I read The Pulp Archivist linking to my previous posts on writing. He says:
Given that writing has such a separation between the speaker and the audience, it is no surprise that many writers forget about the audience altogether. Many literary novelties are written for the speaker’s sake–such as three codas to a story written in the three persons of point of view–and not for the effect on the audience. The faults tackled in these blogs all boil down to writers forgetting about the audience and focusing on the flash of writing
My answer was “ah, yes, that’s like that thing about the writer vs. reader-based post I had… uh, did I actually wrote that or just thought a lot about it?” Well, apparently, the later. So let’s redress that…
This post has been in my draft folder for a long time. It’s one of the most common issues I see in texts I read or proofread, and it’s also the one that more easily sets me off. I’m talking about the overuse of participial phrases or, as you probably know them, -ing verbs. They are everywhere, and although they can be used correctly, they usually aren’t.
This is the pattern, and once I mention it, you’ll probably recognize it: “Character A did X, Y-ing something else,” or “Protagonist said, twirling his mustache.” The participial phrase is the entire, well, phrase, “twirling his mustache,” not just the word twirling. Grammatically, they usually work as an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun (like the subject.) I was surprised when I discovered that because I had intuitively thought they worked as adverbs, saying how something was done (How did he say it? Twisting his mustache) but in fact, they modify a noun, here, “Protagonist.” Basically, it’s like saying “The Protagonist, he-who-is-twisting-his-mustache, said.”
If you have read some of my posts, it’s no secret that I can’t stand most contemporary fiction. The last few posts have been an attempt to explain, mostly to myself, why I rarely can’t get past the first paragraphs of most books I open. Some of those posts have been quite successful and a few people have told me they have had similar experiences, so I guess I’m not the only one.
Following on yesterday’s post on POV and expanding on some comments I have read and made here and in other sites, I’d like to write a bit about first-person narrators. I used to dislike them, but this last year I have been reading a lot of books that are technically first-person narrations but most people wouldn’t consider them as such because they are not fiction: memoirs. I actually started reading them because I was quite bored with most fiction and quickly found that these people, many with no formal literally talent, were nonetheless able to explain quite awesome stories. Then it dawned on me that perhaps the reason I had disliked first-person narrators was, quite simply, that they had been misused, badly written, unnecessary.