Friday, 28 February 2014

Killing your darlings

Last year, while talking with a Year 6 group during a visit to a school, one of the girls put her hand up confessing, ‘that she had written 23 adventures for her hero and was now stumped because she couldn’t come up with any more.'
One of two major faults that crop up again and again in unskilled writing, is the occurrence of adventures, incidents or paragraphs that are not essential to the plot. Most often they are put in to flesh out the story or make it more dramatic, blood curling or funny.

If you think of a story as being like an archer who fletches an arrow, releasing it in a straight line to its target.
That is how a story should be written. Retaining a line, paragraph or page in a story because you like the way it sounds, is not a good enough reason for keeping it. To the reader, who doesn’t share in your affection for this particular paragraph, it is a bewildering and annoying incident that detracts from the flow of the story.

My other gripe is the constant outpouring of dramatic almost epileptic speech, full of expletives. The building of a story is akin to someone climbing a mountain, as the slope grows steeper, so does the tension in the prose and boulders of swearwords (unrepeatable here) and endearments(doll, babe, etc) littering the slope are an impediment to good, flowing prose.

You have only to read some of the recent best sellers that have earned their writers millions: Twilight, Hunger Games to see that they are written within a universally accepted framework of speech.

If you are uncertain about the progress of a story – get hold of a copy of ‘How to Write a Blockbuster’ by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherley. A well-written guideline for a new writer.

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