Monday, July 29, 2013

Apologetic snow

I am doing a couple of English Lit classes this term at university. One of them is a King Arthur class the other one is Fantasy Children's Literature. I had to buy about 6 books. Over the weekend I read Charlotte's Web and really enjoyed it. I'm reading Tom's Midnight Garden and the Dark is Rising at the moment. Both are...okay. I was able to read through Charlotte's Web in 3 days without much problems. It had a flow to it. I could enjoy the story and picture the images without the writing jarring me out of the experience. If a sentence is written badly it disrupts the experience. In Tom's Midnight Garden and the Dark is Rising I could barely get into either without finding the writing jarring.

In the Dark is Rising on the first page the author described the snow as "lying thin and apologetic over the ground" Um, what? Snow cannot be apologetic. It does not think. It does not emote. A better description would have been "A paper thin carpet of white snow blanketed the ground" you know? And then the author described, one after another, what the yard looked like: That house over there was the chook shed, that square was the garage, etc, etc, etc, comma, comma, comma.

Too many commas. Too much telling not showing. Do not tell us what is there. SHOW us. Show us through the character's eyes what the yard looks like as he experiences it. Do not tell us each piece of information, boom, boom, boom, like you are reading off a list.

I have been interested in writing for about 15 years now. In the past couple of years it has become more of a passing hobby then something I would like a career out of. I have gained enough experience to know that the chances of being truly successful are slim to nil and then there's the act of writing itself. It's hard and tiring and lonely. And lately I've been wondering just how many stories I have left in me.

I have been visiting writers web boards since I was a young teenager. It has been the best education in writing I have ever had. It's been hard and painful and the people have not always been nice but they have taught me all I need to know about writing and I am finding more and more as I continue with my university degree in writing and publishing how much I disagree with the teachings of my teachers because what they are teaching keeps clashing with what I have learnt from actual writers.

These books I have to read are considered classics and yet I am finding problems in their writing in the first couple of pages. It doesn't mean they are bad books. But I am surprised that their editors let that bad metaphor slip through and left that bad description in there. One thing I have learnt from my time with other writers is how you must learn how to break the rules.

It's true that there is no "right way" to write a book. Some of the best books ever written have been ones where the authors have thrown all of the rules of grammar out of the window.

I don't know if I am going to enjoy Tom's Midnight Garden and the Dark is Rising as much as Charlotte's web. I'm thinking probably not. But that's just my own personal taste. I just can't forgive that crappy metaphor.

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