Author Topic: Tell Me a Story  (Read 1109 times)

Offline Spell Chick

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Tell Me a Story
« on: June 06, 2008, 05:43:19 PM »
Children have been asking since the dawn of time to be told a story. Today, with television and DVDs rampant, they will sometimes also ask to see a movie. These are two different things.

Sue Grafton's alphabet series began in 1982 when Kinsey Millhone began her sparky, snappy career with A is for Alibi. In 208 pages a crime was solved. Kinsey has charmed many readers and Grafton has become quite successful. Somewhere around the middle of the alphabet, Grafton decided to craft literature rather than write delightful stories. The 2007 book, T is for Trespass, is the latest in the series. The 200 page story is wrapped in 387 pages of prose. I stopped reading around the letter P.

Rex Stout wrote 47 Nero Wolfe books, each one was between 150 and 200 pages long. They are enjoyable. They tell a story. They don't contain extra prose in order to 'show' me anything. They simply, clearly, concisely tell me a story. I like that.

Someone, I have no idea who, told authors to 'show, don't tell'. So people shout like fans at a Michigan vs. Ohio State college football game instead of shouting excitedly. For some unknown reason, adverbs are the pariah in the world of words. Splitting infinitives, once a capital offense and now an annoyance only to old grammarians, may have been the lovely adverb's downfall. Gene Roddenberry sent his Star Trek crew to boldly go where no man had been before rather than going boldly, infinitive intact. They weren't traveling around space like Thor marching across Valhalla on a collision course with Zeus on Mount Olympus. No, they went 'boldly' and we all understood.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Marcel Proust must have written epic films. Remembrance of Things Past is published in a three book set while In Search of Lost Time is six books. The 'lost time' probably went missing while reading Proust.

Why aren't people reading books today? Why, with list after list of best-selling titles, do people think that we aren't reading? But if we agree that young people aren't reading as many books as we would like, we as authors should ask ourselves why. We are raising a generation used to rapid fire images and then expect them to wade through extraneous verbiage produced to make some college professor happy. No wonder they don't read. Miranda can be in love with Reginald without the relationship spelled out in florid and useless prose. Get to the action. Tell the dang story.

The story must be engaging. Literature has its place, but story-telling predates literature by millennia. Both are valid. Shunning story-telling for the sake of literature is just as silly as the reverse. Mark Twain wrote both, but not by design. He wrote stories so well, they became literature.

I like adverbs. I will continue to sing 'Lolly, Lolly, Lolly; Get Your Adverbs Here' from Schoolhouse Rock. I will tell my story with verve and will use all parts of speech as indicated. I will gladly have my characters move through the tale doing this and that and using the language as I would if actually telling the story face to face. I hope readers like being treated with respect. Surely anyone old enough to read will know what 'gladly' means and I don't have to show them through smiling faces lined with happiness.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2008, 07:47:53 PM by SpChick »
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Offline ma100

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Re: Tell Me a Story
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2008, 07:31:05 PM »
Hey Spchick
Loved your article. As a writer I am one that fails miserably on the grammar front and I probably always will. But as a reader I am with you. I like to read the story. It doesn't bother me in the slightest if there is too many 'ly's', but it will stop me reading if there is too much description. Maybe I am a butterfly reader as well as a butterfly brain but if prose makes me lose the thread of the story, I know I won't finish it. The story is the important part for me.
Mairi :)

Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Tell Me a Story
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2008, 07:52:10 PM »
I like adverbs. My real downfall is the overuse of the word 'that'

I have to go back and erase it most of the time. Sigh.
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.