Writing dense descriptions and generative rhetoric.

Aside from “What’s best in life?” there are two sentences from the Conan stories that are more or less widely known, even outside REH fans. The most likely winner would be

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance.”

But I’d say the second is this from the introduction in The Phoenix on the Sword:

“Hither came Conan, The Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyes, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”

That is just a sentence, but it’s hard to imagine a more apt and densely-packed description of Conan. It is also widely different from the usual way of writing descriptions (or writing, in general.)

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The forgotten elegance of forward dialogue tags

Looking up articles on dialogue tags (the “x said” and attached actions following a piece of dialogue) I have noticed two things. First, most focus on the relatively unimportant issue of he said/she said, and whether to use synomyms or not. The second is that very few even mention that tags can be used before the dialogue, and pretty much nobody mentions how the placement affects the meaning and effect of the sentence. In fact, as far as I know, I may be the only one who has noticed that (probably not, of course.)

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