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Monday, February 20, 2012

Study of English II

I have expressed my failure to grasp rudimentary elements of the English language in previous posts.  I have also expressed how I have made it a new mission in my life to not only learn the terms and associations of words in regards to English so that I may not only become a better writer but to the degree I can argue aspects of English with professors and those who cannot read a piece of work with mistakes without developing a brain hemorrhage.

One of the books I am studying states that:

You must learn to express yourself in a plain, easy manner, in well chosen, significant and decent terms, and to give harmonious and pleasing turn to your periods; study to explain your thoughts . . .
Its formal cause therefore is such choice and disposition of words as will achieve this end most economically.

I agree and disagree with this statement! 

Every author has heard repeatedly to show, not tell.  To achieve our end economically!  This same book wasted (in my opinion) the first chapter explaining who gets excluded from using proper English! 

Sometimes an author has to be everything but economical.  I’m not talking about being extra wordy as much as I am talking about taking a less direct route to get to a point.  I don’t believe in making my books lappy.  Lappy is an old Vaudeville term they would use if you broke the routine down enough to basically lay it in the audiences lap.  I enjoy intelligent books that are not lappy.  I write the books I would love to read that haven’t been written yet.  I try to use characters and situations in my books that tell part of the story from one or more of the characters perspective.

The trick, or technique that I prefer to use is to get the reader to ask questions themselves.  I may or may not necessarily answer those questions at that point in the book.  I do try and make sure that I tie up almost all of the questions by the end of the book except for the major questions which may take two or three books of the series to adequately resolve all of the issues.
This of course is taking the risk that those who are skimming or speed reading may not get all the tidbits of information or have adequate time to form the questions that somebody reading the book normally would before being further along in the book.  Without the reader mentally connecting with the story and asking the obvious questions they may miss some of the major points of the book and be left with the feeling the story came up short, or left them wanting.  I am not writing young adult or children’s books, and I am not going to state the questions or make a big fan fare that this is the answer you have have been waiting for.  I am willing to take the risk that not everybody who reads my books is going to “Get It” or necessarily understand or grasp all that there is to be had.

I also don’t totally explain every aspect of everything presented.  I don't do this to be pompous, but rather that I anticipate that my readers are intelligent and educated to some degree.  It's alright if you don't understand everything you read in a story.  Take a break and check it out, whether it is a word, a fact, or a new concept; that's how we learn new things.  I do try and introduce some information that you normally wouldn’t run across.  Whether the information is true or a figment of my imagination I leave for the reader to decide.  In this age of information where you can look stuff up as easy as checking your e-mail, if the reader is curious they can check it out for themselves.  For the inquisitive reader they may be surprised by what’s real and what’s not.  I try and write intelligent books.  I’ve had more than one reviewer of “Whisper” say they didn’t understand the terminology but it made them feel like they were there and at sea with the crew.

When the author is shooting for mystery, intrigue, or suspense they may not use the most economic choice of words to convey their ideas, thoughts or images they are trying to impress upon the reader.  A good book should engage your senses, emotions and intelligence.  If somebody wants the story spilled out neatly in their lap they can watch television or a movie.  That’s why I don’t understand how these people who can read a 120,000 word novel in two days and enjoy it and honestly think they got everything out of the book it had to offer.  That would be reading 2,500 words every hour for 48 hours or 41.66 words every minute for two days.  These people should be watching movies and not reviewing books!

I feel as readers mature in the material they choose to read they gravitate for stories that connect to them on multiple levels in a subtle manner.  I truly hope that as I grow in skill and hone my craft and style that the stories I write will bother people with thoughts and questions as they read it and for a while after they have finished reading it.  I hope to get to where I can challenge peoples core preconceived notions of the world and reality, to challenge readers to validate or check out what I have written for themselves.  Economical, Bah Humbug!

One final word is directly out of the same book I am studying which I believe is the crux if the entire problem of studying English as opposed to science or mathematics.

“English is not static-neither in vocabulary nor in grammar, nor yet in that elusive quality called style.  The fashion in prose alternates between the ornate and the plain, the periodic and the colloquial.  Grammar and punctuation defy all the efforts of grammarians to force them into the mould of a permanent code of rules.  Old words drop out or change their meanings; new words are admitted.  What was stigmatised by purists of one generation as a corruption of the language may a few generations later be accepted as an enrichment, and what was then common currency may have become a pompous archaism or acquired a new significance.”

(If you have any problem with the spelling or punctuation of the following quote as it came out of a respected English text book, I double checked it three times with the book.  Especially the words Micro-softs Word underlined in red as if I miss spelled them!)

2 + 2 still equals 4 as it did for my great great grandfather and as much as it does today unless you are a creative accountant or former Enron Executive.

God Bless and keep writing!  


J.L. Murphey said...

I love that you are learning the nuances of English and you get it.

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