Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, November 21, 2011

Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies? (Part II)

The fall season of writing viruses is here. Watch out for these dangerous diseases!

(After Part I)

Catching the Rye:
Well you probably first want to have read this book by J.D. Salinger with an immediately catchy voice that kind of spoke to a generation or some nonsense, and after you do that you may be corrupted with that voice in your head for some time if you want to know the truth of the matter. If you really want to think about it it’s already been done and anyway the guy who wrote it didn’t end up wanting to talk to anyone anymore and holed up in a house somewhere so that can’t have been good and you probably want to try and go and write your own voice so you’re not a phony.


Adverb Central:
“What do you mean I can’t use adverbs with dialogue tags?” Lucia asked questioningly.
“Just don’t do it,” Nathan replied testily.
“But why not?” Lucia asked quizzically.
“It’s kind of a rule,” Nathan said resignedly.
“I kind of like them,” Lucia said poutingly.
“If you keep using adverbs,” Nathan said patiently, “Pretty soon your reader will only notice the adverbs and not the dialogue because the adverbs are doing all the work for the reader.”
“Oh,” Lucia said understandingly.
“Yeah,” Nathan nodded knowingly.


Gee Whiz That’s a Lot of Exposition:
“But what is it?” Captain Spaceman asked.
“I’m glad you asked,” his crack scientist said. “It’s a ‘What’s It.’ It is a device that requires me to explain to you precisely how the technology in this world works so the writer can get some exposition out of the way.”
“But why wouldn’t I already know how the technology works?” Captain Spaceman asked. “I am the captain, aren’t I?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” the scientist said. “You will impatiently prod me along while I tell the reader exactly what they need to know even though there is no good reason for us to be having this conversation. You might even say ‘Yes yes, go on.’”
“Yes yes, go on,” Captain Spaceman said.
“And I’ll be sure to include some foreshadowing. I mean, sir, just think of what would happen if the ‘What’s It’ fell into the wrong hands... You might even be moved to weigh in on the gravity of the situation.”
Captain Spaceman scratched his chin. “My gods, that would be catastrophic.”


Olympic Head Jumping:
Jackie saw the problem approach from a mile away. She turned to Richard, who was wondering about the weather that day and thought nothing of Susan, who was sitting quietly and wasn’t expecting the problem at all. Jackie wondered at that moment how everything had gone wrong, while Richard’s eyes widened as he saw another person approaching, Derrick, who gave a wave as he approached, happy to see his friends. Susan began to notice something was amiss and gave a start, which Richard noticed and looked in Derrick’s direction while Jackie had already been onto the problem from the start, ignoring the quizzical expression on Derrick’s face as he tried to understand. No one had any idea what was really happening.


Fantasy Overload:
“We are hearty warriors! Let us share a hearty chuckle! Ha ha ha!” Pentrarch said.
There was a glint in Lentwendon’s eye as he took a swill from a mighty cistern of ale. He bellowed a deep laugh and clapped his friend on the back.
“I say,” Pentrarch said, “What is it about fantasy novels that lends itself to such stilted, manly camaraderie? Do we not have normal interactions?”
“We do not,” Lentwendon said, his voice suddenly grave. “We do not. We prefer to express our friendship with great noise and clapping of shoulders and brood quietly but stoically when matters turn serious. It is the same with our women.”
“Oh yes,” Pentrarch said “Our women are quietly supportive that we must do battle in far off lands, and they always have weary, knowing eyes. In truth they are the strong ones.”
Lentwendon nodded as he stared quietly at his cistern. “And ale, always ale.”






76 comments:

Mr. D said...

Thank goodness for revisions, chicken soup for the writer!

E.Maree said...

This is brilliant. I think as a YA writer I've definitely had bouts of Catching the Rye.

Gale Martin said...

Well done. Points taken!

Jaimie said...

Oh my God "his voice suddenly grave." Hahahaha. Killed me.

Just Another Day in Paradise said...

"Hilarious," she said laughingly.

Catherine said...

I agree, I said agreeably.

Naomi Canale said...

Bwahaha!! Your fantasy advice is killing me...LOL!

Lia Keyes said...

Thanks for the laugh! Very clever!

S.P. Bowers said...

Hahahahahaha.

Mira said...

ROFL. This is excellent and hilarious.

Bet it was fun to write, too.

I think my favorite is the exposition one. But the fantasy one is too funny.

I don't do the head jumping one, but the Catching in the Rye one is hard to combat!!

I don't know about the adverb one, though. Nathan, the protag, went from testy to resigned to patient to knowing. That's like an emotional ephiphany. How would we have know that without the adverbs, I ask you??? Food for thought.

Petrea Burchard said...

Ha! This is delightful.

Stephanie {Luxe Boulevard} said...

I can't believe I missed part one last week. So funny! I'm going to pass these along to my critique group members.
I do some of these things, but in a way it is to distinguish between my character voices. My MS is written in alternating POV's, two totally different 'voices': one quiet and subdued, the other loud and crass. Hopefully I do it in a way that is effective. I haven't been remarked on any of it yet.
I do have one question though, do people really do the Chatty Cathy thing on a manuscript? A blog post, sure, who doesn't? But an MS?

MacEvoy DeMarest said...

Nice. I may just name a son Lentwendon.

It seems most of these can be overcome with a half-way decent ear. But exposition is tough. It can't always be avoided.

One place I think it was done well (and I mean a lot of it) was in The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

Anonymous said...

"Adverb Central"

Ha! Too funny.

You left out passive voice, and all those bad similes. "...for all the world like a curious dog."

Debbie said...

I now must go add all of these to my NaNo WIP. Will up the wordcount heartily. And make me laugh at the same time.

ed cyzewski said...

"This post was delivered mightily," I wrote gleefully in the comment form. "Allow me to slap you on the back and drink a hearty drought of grog in your honor fine sir!"

Isabella Amaris said...

LOL!! This is hilarious! Loved the fantasy bit especially. Okay, the exposition too. Have to say, the head-jumping one was very, very illustrative... lol and the adverb central piece was strangely - nice to read...

Hmmm, u know, I think you wrote the adverb piece well enough that it actually works! kind of...:)

Tres Buffalo said...

I think I may be a Rye Catcher because sometimes the thought just keeps coming and it is impossible to contain it with the conventional rules of grammer, readability, or common sense so I just keep writing much to the displeasure of my editor who likes to mark it in red and send it back then I can see her frown as I correct it for the second time and send it back for a recheck.

Reading the examples was a hoot!

Suze Reese said...

Aw gee whiz that was a fun to start the week! I have to confess to having read Twilight during the initial writing phase of my manuscript. Even now in my final edit I'm finding and banishing gooey prose that is not me. "Sigh," she sighed resignedly.

BECKY said...

Hi Nathan. I loved all of these, too, especially Olympic Head Jumping. This is a big pet peeve of mine. In my critique group, there's usually always one or two whose sentences go on...and on...and on.... Eeeek!

Sarah Allen said...

haha, I love this :) So hilarious, so true.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Heather said...

Love this! The first thing that popped into my mind when reading the fantasy one was George R. R. Martin :P

Stephanie Garber said...

Reading this post was such a good way to start the morning!

Tres Buffalo said...

Ok, I am probably guilty of overstuffing the rye but wait, I'm in a chair.

If you missed Part 1, it would be an error to not go back and read it.

Penrefe said...

"Olympic Head Jumping"

Thank you, doctor. At least now I have a name for it.

M. E. Patterson said...

If you like these, the "Turkey City" sci-fi study group wrote a lexicon a while ago that has even more. Some are primarily SF-focused, but a lot apply to any writing. Great read.

Rick Daley said...

Dammit who leaked my WIP????

D.G. Hudson said...

During revisions, you learn how to fight these maladies. It's a learning process when you've got to clean up your own work.

I like to sprinkle commas, I've been told, but that's just hearsay.

Whenever I start writing with Salinger's style, it usually ends up being one of those killed darlings.

Kirsten Mortensen said...

VERY well done! Bravo! Bravo!

Maya said...

Haha. Were you having slushpile flashbacks, Nathan?

Anonymous said...

SO what do we do if random head-jumping is kind of like how we are in real life? Is there a formal disorder for that kind of mental aptitude, or are we the chosen ones? :D

Melody said...

Haha, this is epic. :)

Lae Monie said...

Funny. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.

Ranae Rose said...

Ah ha ha! I love the 'fantasy overload' one!

Doug said...

Here's one I see a lot of in the critique group I'm in:

"Where are you going, John?"
"Well, Marsha, I thought I'd go to the hardware store."
"But John, don't you have enough tools already?"
"Marsha, you know a man can never have enough tools."
"John, that's silly and wasteful."
"Just being prepared, Marsha."

Robena Grant said...

I love this. Thank you. : )

jongibbs said...

Good one :)

Ulysses said...

I have no doubt you are already intimately familiar with this, Nathan, but for those who are not...

The Turkey City Lexicon, in addition to being pretty darn funny, is an excellent resource for anyone wondering what pitfalls to avoid. It also provides a great vocabulary for talking about common weaknesses in writing, and is suitable for use in writing groups and critique workshops.

It also makes a great sandwich (er... what?).

Leo Godin said...

Fantastic. Love the Olympic head jumping. Seems like a lot of novelists participate in that sport.

ScottB said...

"And ale. Always ale." Nathan, why haven't you written an epic fantasy novel yet? You made me snort out loud at work.

This one ties with "I'm in a chair!" for most hilarious.

Doug said...

Another of my least favorites:

I could see the brush-fire advancing toward me, and could hear the crackling of the burning vegetation. How long could I linger, I wondered. Now I could smell the smoke, and I felt my anxiety rising. Take it easy, I thought to myself. Then I felt the wind shift and realized I needed to leave immediately.

Anne R. Allen said...

Brilliant. This might get through to a few writers who are still hanging onto those first-novel habits.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I tend to catch the rye after reading Jane Austen. I suspect it is a common malady.
(Crap, I'm rereading P&P right now, too! Good thing my WIP is so very SF.)

I think I have ditched the adverb abuse, though. So far in this comment I have not used one! Believe me, that is progress from a few years ago.

But awww, I loved the Captain Spaceman one a little bit. I'm going to have to watch out for that one with the aforementioned SF project, although at least in that case it's an alien technology that nobody understands right away. Eep!

Karen Schwabach said...

Here's one that bothers me.

The single-sentence paragraph.

Or sometimes not even a sentence.

It seems to happen a lot in suspense fiction.

Each paragraph contains one single sentence.

I guess it's supposed to make it more suspenseful.

Susan said...

LOL! These are great. The SFWA has a list of these that all new writers -- and some old -- could benefit from.

"I recently noticed that a best-selling debut novel included in the opening pages the protagonist waking up in the morning and then looking in a mirror -- two writer bookisms that I've read we novice writers should avoid. My question is why would an agent or editor let this get through? Should we just ignore these and soldier on?" she asked inquisitively.

wendy said...

Ha, ha, excellently explained, Nathan.

I don't think I suffer from those maladies. My problem is with syntax. My sentence construction is awkward, and I tend to rewrite for years. If I don't, the result isn't good. And I think my style might be old-fashioned now as I've been writing since my early twenties, and I'm now 57. We tend to be influenced by the books we read, and while I was a big reader back then, I'm not so much now. Well, I also think this because someone critiqued my novel by saying it was a charming, old-fashioned read...or something like that. If only we could write in a way that wasn't indicative of the times or in the popular style. Then our work would never date. But it isn't just our style or voice that reflects the era we write in. Everything about our work tends to mirror our culture which might not be all bad. A realistic story set in contemporary times might need to reflect the current idioms.

The English Teacher said...

This made me smile.

Adam Heine said...

Oh, wow. That Captain Spaceman dialog is genius.

Sommer Leigh said...

Absolutely wonderful :-)

Terri Weeding said...

Maladies noted...posted on the BEWARE list.

I suffer from the dot-dot-dot malady, otherwise known as ELLIPSES COMPULSION. Trying to stop the madness... it's hard... cause it's a compulsion.

Susan Dawson-Cook said...

I was listening to Jane Eyre on CD the other day (which I haven't read since I was 15) and was cracking up at Bronte's dialogue tags. There are a whole lot of "she ejaculated."

Other Lisa said...

HAHAH! Where was the spew alert on this post?! Too funny. Now I have to go find Part 1, but at least I am forewarned...

charlotteotter said...

Beautiful stuff, Nathan. "And ale, always ale." Love it.

Is there a virus for maverick, hard-drinking crime novel protagonists?

Clare WB said...

Ah, Nathan, Nathan. You do mightily pontificate on the multitudinous maladies. The skeletons of style rattle their chains, rousing the dragons of dialogue from the depth of Dicken's dungeons. We do, with knowing looks, attend your learned lessons. The world moved. Nothing there is to say more.

Ryan Sullivan said...

I'm more of a mead person, myself.

Jo-Ann said...

Excellent post, I'm recommneding it to my critique group.

Prity S said...

Thanks Nathan! What a brilliant way to warn us. Thanks...

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Gads that's a brilliant post Nathan!! I don't comment often because, well, geesh, you get a million of them. But I always read and I had to chime in today. (In the voice of the Guiness brothers) BRILLIANT! :) e

Karleen said...

I'm afraid that one reason it's so funny is that I catch myself saying "Oops, I've done that." Obviously a lot of your other readers have, too.
The comments are almost as much fun to read as the post. Almost.

Maria said...

Wow, I finally get why those pesky adverbs are so pesky. In future will be saving myself a lot of time and just writing the dang dialogue.

abc said...

giggles.

Marsha Sigman said...

I am totally going to use the word 'hearty' now. I can't help it.

Matthew MacNish said...

"You're very good at this, Nathan." Matthew commented complimentarily.

Yes it's a word, I just made it one.

Mira said...

You know, I've read this like four or five times and will probably read it again. It's good!

Nathan, I hope someday you write a book for writers.

Vera Soroka said...

My daughter was given an assignment where they had to rewrite a fairy tale. They had to write it the way J.D. Salanger wrote Catcher And The Rye, curse words and all. She ruined Sleeping Beauty.

Marc said...

Great stuff, man.

Heather Marsten said...

Thanks for the laugh. I needed it today. Hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Heather

Tammy said...

Hilarious post. Unfortunately, true. I've find the exposition malady to be especially true of Science Fiction. While I love Sci-Fi, I don't need to know how everything works. By picking up the book, I've agreed to suspend disbelief, so there are many things the author doesn't have to explain. I'm already on board.

Bryan Russell said...

HA!

Rain Laaman said...

Oh, this wants to make me write a novel just on parodies--especially for fantasy. ;)

Scott Bryan said...

BWAHAHAHA! Oh man. I love the head jumping the best.

Reagan Philips said...

Great post, parts I and II, thanks.

Barb said...

So true. Thanks for the laughs. I've seen some Olympic Head Jumping in published novels and it makes me want to vault those books over the pole.

Mandi said...

The adverbs example made me giggle.

Dan said...

Nathan, I really enjoyed this post - and yes I think that I have suffered from one or all of these maladies at some point in time. Thanks for sharing.

Tiana Smith said...

I lolled :)

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