As writers, we are ever cognizant of the rules.
From show don’t tell to use simple sentences, we have all heard them. There are even books on the subject. “Shocking!”
One of my readers contacted me to tell me that ‘big’ words threw him out of the story. My first response was, ‘only in my head, of course, was’ “bless your heart.”
That begs the question, do we dumb our writing down to appeal to the masses? Is the reading public getting dumber?
Personally, I would rather lift people up than encourage them to read at a fifth grade level as adults. It used to be that we would write for a seventh-grade level which is still insane but, to lower our standards to a fifth-grade level, one has to wonder. Why are companies hiring from other countries instead of America? Could it be that we are saying it is ok to stagnate at a fifth grade level of reading?
Here is another rule. ‘Simple sentences work best.’ Pro Writing aid will tell you many things, including identifying such sentences. To me, this rule also has to do with the pacing of your story. We want people to turn the page, not struggle over complex sentences. Does that hold true for words like perpetuity?
Should we not endeavor to leave people a little more educated than when they found us? Kindle makes it so damned easy to look up a word. Personally, I rejoice when I read a word that I have not heard. Possibly that is a quirk but I will own it.
As a child, I kept a dictionary close and looked up every word that I did not know. I used a word in my second-grade class that the teacher called me on. I mentioned that my sibling was obstinate. She peered down over her long nose through her poorly fitted readers and pointed her crooked finger straight at me. “Do you even know what that word means?” She crowed.
“Stubborn, pig-headed, inflexible.”
This person was not impressed. This individual should have retired years ago but ‘loved’ kids. PFFT!
I was ‘that’ child in school. The precocious child who used words better suited for late teens, possibly college kids. When you read, you tend to have a respectable vocabulary.
I wrote in a previous blog about how you get a glimpse into the heads of the author by reading what they wrote. This is especially true for children and ‘stories.’
An astute teacher can glean much from those short stories, including trouble at home.
I learned the rules. I know them, so now I break them with impunity.
Thunder over the water sounded like two pirate ships in a heated battle; before one of them would meet Davy Jones. The crusty old captain was not going down without a fight. His younger rival had studied him, and knew what his moves might be. This was the first time a woman would lead men into battle, and she was untested.
Her red hair blew about her, as the acrid odor of gun powder filled their noses. The splinter of wood sounded like the thunder itself, as the mainsail was the first casualty of the battle.
Susan saw the story in her head as she sat on the screened-in porch watching lighting dance in the clouds well in the distance.
Her mother was due home at any moment. She could see down the mountain road and there were no lights from any cars. In fact, there had been no traffic for what seemed hours.
A chill caught her attention as the winds from the impending storm blew through the screen, with a whistling sound that reminded her of the sounds coming through the open canopy of her father’s aircraft.
Never start a story with the weather… Hmmm, I think that start gets your attention. This open or prologue took less than three minutes to concoct.
- Who is Susan?
- Where is her mother?
- How old is she?
- What about her father?
- He is/was a pilot. Where does the story take place?
While allowing the reader to do some of the work, we the writer have this picture in our mind. We know it is a cabin perhaps, in the woods may be up a mountain next to a lake left over from the glacial days. We know that Susan has an imagination and pirates play into it.
I like strong women and red-haired women at that. Wonder why?
Know the rules and then write the damned story. Make it your story.
Comments? I love to hear from you as always.
Much Love -TW