You’re Writing WrongSeptember 29, 2012
I read a lot, and I set 99% of books right back down again. The problem with most fiction is it throws off my rhythm. See, my writing pursues a flow. And popular fiction lulls me into complacency. If I read too much, it’s like I spend all my time driving thirty miles an hour. Then when I’m on freeways, I’m uncertain of traveling over fifty five. And in that situation, my passengers would rather get out and walk. That’s what happened to me, so I write my own terrors and fantasies.
My complaint is many writers drain the action from their stories – probably unconsciously and automatically. And that is what I try and avoid. Summed up briefly, I sincerely believe ‘did’ should be ‘does’, ‘said’ should be ‘says’, ‘told’ should be ‘tells’. Everlastingly, I quest for an Active Voice, a Present Tense. Word choices are the bricks in that path I pave for myself.
Again considering the mental state of questionably sure and professional writers, and their publishers, I do wonder if they recognize the weakness of their manuscripts. The fact readers often aren’t provided online previews of their works, especially on Amazon, suggests they hide the truth. They trick readers into purchasing their books under the pretense of trust. And they defend their position with the pretentious shield of copyright.
The defense is simply a timid ruse. Authors and publishers don’t need to behave this way. For instance, look-up Cory Doctorow on the Internet. This author releases his digital work under the Creative Commons license. Whole books of his are available to read online. And I know the man sells more printed books than most other authors. Simply, many writers forbid the luxury of perusal freely available in libraries. Online, their books are comparably shrink-wrapped as if they sit on the shelves of Scientology bookstores, all hiding truly nonsensical craziness within.
Putting the topic of availability aside for another day, let’s return to my combined subjects of Present Tense and the Active Voice. I’m asking why authors add past tense participles to their verbs. I know English grammarians will argue the liberty of my definition (visit LEARNING ENGLISH GRAMMAR and see yourself), but in my own opinion, the past participle ‘-ed’ merely helps masquerade sentence structures as Present Perfect tense. The extra syllables often do not need to be present. They’re as speed bumps upon hoity-toity residential roads and streets within school zones.
Why do authors make readers slow down and process extra text inside their heads – breathe those extra sounds aloud? I avoid that excess for the sake of flow. As writing is, many authors already use big words that interrupt their stories and send conscientious readers to dictionaries. Loyal fans, especially, should not be subjected to posted speed cautions. In example, I make my case with long dead and inexplicably persistent HP Lovecraft. The man, and each of his troupe of just-as-dead and lingering authors, might have gained wider distribution and fame in his lifetime. All he and his followers need is an editor enforcing minimum speed limits.
Look at this passage from HP Lovecraft’s ‘The Lurking Fear’ (better retitled simply ‘Lurking Fear’, if my opinion is bothered with) –
“The stormy vigil reminded me shudderingly of my ghastly night on Tempest Mountain. My mind turned to that odd question which had kept recurring ever since the nightmare thing had happened; and again I wondered why the demon, approaching the three watchers either from the window or the interior, had begun with the men on each side and left the middle man till the last, when the titan fireball had scared it away.”
Mindful of my preference, I’d revise the text to read –
“Shudderingly, the stormy vigil reminds me of my ghastly night on Tempest Mountain. My mind turns to that odd question which keeps recurring – ever since that nightmare thing had happened. Again, I wonder why the demon, approaching three watchers either from the window or the interior, had begun with the men on each side. The middle man was left last, when a titan fireball had scared it away.”
I know Lovecraftians will flay me alive, but I don’t care. They don’t love me and I’m only trying to help. I am one of them despite their philistine rejection. And I think of myself as their literary messiah. And like Jesus, I am castaway by my own people. But for those gentiles who will follow my rules for the road, I am the Way. I am the path to immortality. Trust me. L. Ron Hubbard says as much.
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