Archive | November, 2011

Writers On Style

12 Nov


Pace is crucial. Fine writing isn’t enough. Writing students can be great at producing a single page of well-crafted prose; what they sometimes lack is the ability to take the reader on a journey, with all the changes of terrain, speed and mood that a long journey involves. Sarah Waters

Get into the scene late, get out of the scene early. – David Mamet

The thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. P.G. WODEHOUSE

“The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. … Consider the death of the queen. If it is in a story we say “and then?” If it is in a plot we ask “why?” — E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not the beginning of a story, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is. – John le Carré

Any fiction should be a story. In any story there are three elements: persons, a situation, and the fact that in the end something has changed. If nothing has changed, it isn’t a story. ~ Malcolm Cowley

Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas one long chunk of type can discourage the reader from even starting to read. ~ William  Zinsser 

Once somebody’s aware of a plot, it’s like a bone sticking out. If it breaks through the skin, it’s very ugly. – Louis Auchincloss


Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie. ~ Stephen King

What I’m trying to achieve is a voice sitting by a fireplace telling you a story on a winter’s evening. – Truman Capote

Writing well means never having to say, “I guess you had to be there.” Jef Mallett

ON Dialogue

11 Nov

Dialogue Should Be Brief

Elizabeth Bowen

1. Dialogue should be brief.
2. It should add to the reader’s present knowledge.
3. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation.
4. It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.
5. It should keep the story moving forward.
6. It should be revelatory of the speaker’s character, both directly and indirectly.
7. It should show the relationships among people.


Read almost any newspaper interview, and you’ll conclude that the dialogue of real people is more stilted and implausible than the dialogue of invented characters. Trying to make real people sound real on the page is necessarily an exercise in impressionism. Nothing teaches one the subtleties of punctuation so well as an attempt to take a skein of actual speech and restore to it the pauses, ellipses, switches of tone and speed, that it had in life. ~ JONATHAN RABAN

Writers on Writing

7 Nov

Use Plain Simple Language
I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. ~MARK TWAIN

Another Important Rule

1 Nov

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.” – Somerset Maugham