|Thou Shalt Not Bore|
I listened to The Sins of Literature on radio 4 this morning. The episode was entitled Thou Shalt not Bore.
Forgive me father for I commit multiple literary sins. I’m not a real writer so I think I can get away with it.
Here are some rules that thou shalt not:
- “Never open a book with the weather.” (If I wrote books I might well open with the weather. It’s just stopped pouring with rain at the moment, since you ask. That’s one of my favourite weather scenarios. Oh no, it’s started again)
- “Avoid prologues. Bad writing is writing which is showy, which is there for effect, which is playing with words. I mean we all know which sort of writing we mean. God there’s a lot of it about.” (Mine. Mine and Mine.) “It was bitterly cold, stiflingly hot - we don’t do that. “
3. “Never use a word other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to qualify the word ‘said’, he admonished, gravely.” Ha ha, that was very funny; but I do like to make use of that Enid Blytonesque device whenever I can.
Will Self says something about the metaphor. I thought this programme was called Thou Shalt Not Bore.
4. “Keep your exclamation points under control.” (Come back!!) “You’re allowed no more than two or three per hundred thousand words of prose.”
5. “Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘All Hell broke loose’.”
How can you never use the word ‘suddenly’? I know, use another similar word; say, ‘abruptly’.
Will Self says some more about metaphor.
6. Use regional dialect / patois sparingly.
“Never begin a paragraph with the same word as its predecessor. Elegant variation is a ghastly and scurvy habit that Fowler is hilarious about that in his ‘English Usage’.
Use a different word but you mean the same thing, and it’s not in another application, it’s the same application, and then you wonder why there’s a difference and then you realise it’s just a genteel thing that the writer was told when he was twelve by a baad (note extremely sparing use of dialect) English teacher, don’t repeat a word. Yes, repeat a word, and use it three times to show you know what you’re doing.” says Martin Amis, confusingly. Well, he confused me, and now I’m not sure if I can or cannot use ‘suddenly’ once, twice or not at all.
7. “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” Bugger. I do like detailed descriptions of characters, specially Ann Leslie.
8. “Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.” Okay then.
9. “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip The most important rule is one that sums up the ten. If it sounds like writing... I re-write it.”