Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Be interesting

pointoforigin complains here about prescriptive writing rules. Yeah, this is something I think about a lot.

Forgive me if this is just a 'blinding glimpse of the obvious', but it seems to me that once one gets beyond issues of grammar and competent English prose, the only unimpeachable command in writing fiction is to be interesting. To intrigue, please, and astonish the reader. On this commandment hangs all the law and the prophets.

All other writing advice is an attempt to codify what interests readers.

Although this is simple advice, it seems very easy to forget. The most common flaw I see in the Lenox Avenue   slush is dullness. The writer plods well-traveled ground, putting faceless characters through tired paces. While laboriously working his characters through his plot, he doesn't seem to notice that the plot isn't interesting and the characters are shopworn. Nothing exciting, in terms of sentence-level prose, character action, or story events, is happening. The writer describes his setting with stoical dullness, as if discharging a moral obligation, without wondering whether the description will interest the reader.

A contrary example: Kelly Link, a sort of Popperian black swan. She seems to break all the rules. And yet her fiction is fascinating, unforgettable, full of tiny joys when you read it. Here's an example, from "Magic for Beginners," describing Fox, a character in a very strange TV show:

"Fox is funny, dangerous, bad-tempered, flirtatious, greedy, untidy, accident-prone, graceful, and has a mysterious past."

What's this, now? Copula? Telling rather than showing? But Kelly Link gets away with it because it's so over the top, piling descriptor on top of descriptor in a comical heap. Moreover, none of it is expected. It fits no known pattern, and for that reason it's intriguing. Fox is not blonde, green-eyed, and slender. She's not fat, oily, and pig-eyed. She's not honest and open, or warm and friendly, or sly and untrustworthy, or cynical and sarcastic. Her personality is irregular and lumpy, and you can't help but wonder what bounces she's going to take. Come to think of it, I'd like to watch a TV show with Fox in it. Which, I suspect, is exactly the reaction Kelly Link is trying to get.

You've probably read Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing. He has a bunch of prescriptions, but then makes exceptions: "Unless you're Writer X, then it's okay to break this rule," for X = Barry Lopez, John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, etc.

I truly think there are no rules in this game except: interest the reader. As Elmore Leonard says, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

That having been said... the usual sort of writing rules that one sees, Leonard's rules, Cherryh's rulesRobert Sawyer's rules, Lester Dent's rules, Damon Knight's rules, Stephen King's rules aren't a bad place to start. IMO, their core purpose is to allow that which is interesting to the reader to shine through the prose, unimpeded. If there's not enough in your story to interest the reader (see paragraph four above) they won't help.

And what's that? If my real job is to interest the reader how do I do that?

I do think that one critical thing is novelty. Show me something I haven't seen a dozen times before. Introduce me to a character I haven't met in fiction all my life. Take me an unfamiliar place. Confide to me a curious, exciting, threatening, destabilizing new idea. To do these things requires creativity, which is difficult.

I'm certainly not saying that novelty is the only thing that is important, or the only way to interest the reader. But some novelty is necessary to any story, and in the LA slush, I'm seeing more problems with too little novelty than with too much.

And now, the world's largest rodent.


meaning: bowstring

上弦 == jougen == (noun) 1st quarter of moon, crescent moon
弦楽器 == gengakki ==  (noun) stringed instrument

The left radical is 'bow' (弓). The right radical is a 'occult/black' (玄), used here in its sense of 'twised (small) thread'; i.e., a bowstring. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Bow has string of twisted black thread.'

Info from Taka Kanji Database
List of compounds including this character from Risu Dictionary

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