Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Advice for Writers

Dover Publications has just released a handy little work entitled Great Writers on the Art of Fiction: From Mark Twain to Joyce Carol Oates. Included is an essay by Kurt Vonnegut, in which he urges clarity above all.
I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: that I write like cultivated Englishmen of a century of more ago.

I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable -- and therefore understood.
Or, if Vonnegut's not your bag, T-Rex is dishing out his take on literary stylings.


Bob the Ape said...

Thank you so much for the link to T-Rex; we can always use another addictive website. I suspect "Pull yourself together, Shakespeare!" will join the band of family catch phrases; as will, perhaps, Jane Austen-shaped fish sticks.

mrsdarwin said...

I sit and read through the archives of the dinosaur comments, and people throw things at me and tell me that the snickering is getting annoying.

Pull yourself together, Shakespeare!