Monday, May 23, 2016

Writing for good or for evil?

A long time ago, I jokingly (and lovingly) made the comment that some hockey players needed a picture book to remind them of a few little things that were integral to the game. "You are on ice. Ice is slippery," being the first thing that many seem to forget as they go to take off after someone and fall flat on their backs. In the same way, I do sometimes wonder if a similar guide for writers would be helpful. "If your main character is un-likeable, chances are, your readers won't like them - which might hurt the book," would be the first thing I would say. And for those who think that they can throw the rules of grammar out the window... think again, buddy. There are reasons that the conventions exist. Spaces, punctuation, capitalisation, all of it exists to assist the reader. The less the reader notices it, the more they can be drawn into your story. Yes, you are allowed to have your own idiosyncrasies, but you are not allowed to turn the English language upside down and ask your readers to read from right to left.

Sorry. I started to rant there. That wasn't the point of this post... I love writers. I honestly think they have accomplished something amazing if they manage to complete something and get it to a point that they want others to see it. It is something I could never do.

What I was trying to say was that I often feel like I am a bad person for caring about grammar, spelling, or story development. I don't expect anyone to share my enamoured view of character and plot tropes or my vehemence about the Oxford comma. But I don't want to feel ashamed of any of that either.

In an age of text speak and emojis, have I become a dinosaur purely because of my love of the language that has been somewhat overtaken by 'convenience'? Does my refusal to use numbers within words or remove all the vowels constitute a terminal disease? And as far as prospective authors go, am I smothering the creative genius that is distinguishing the good guys in a novel from the bad ones by the capital vowels used (or not) when referring to "ThEm" or "Them" if I refuse to accept that as a valid construct? If I prefer the sentence itself to make it clear?

When did wanting the quality of the story and the clarity of good prose to be the only champions a writer needed become a bad thing? Or have we become the old Vaudeville adage from Gypsy- "You gotta get a gimmick"? I certainly hope not.


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