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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Minerva BS: What are the absolutes of good writing? (269* d) RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing? 10 Sep 07

"Brevity" is not an absolute of good writing. We had this mis-guided concept pounded into our heads in school, along with other screwy ideas like, "never plagiarize".

Dickens was never brief. Neither were Victor Hugo, Lev Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, or Paul the Apostle. These are only a few examples of folks who wrote some of the most beautiful descriptions, and developed some of the most fascinating characters in literature, in particular, by not being brief.

It's my opinion that brevity became a fad in the middle of the last century, by establishment types who were over-impressed with Hemingway and others, some of whom were actually pretty good at descriptions despite the fact that they were brief. Magazine editors have taken over the gospel of brief, and it's obvious that their approach has generally hackneyed and clichee'd the english language into sappy pulp. Hemingway once said Beryl Markham "... could write rings around us all..." Yet she was not brief. (He was right.)

It's not as though all modern stuff is brief - you can use the typical Seteven King novel as a doorstop.

It is my opinion that for most kinds of writing, it is the ability to let the reader feel what the character is feeling, or understand what the character is understanding (or think they understand the situation better than the character!) that is an absolute of good writing.

If it's brief, that's fine. Well-done Haiku can give a glimpse of this sometimes. But writing doesn't have to be brief to accomplish it. Who has ever looked at the sky the same way again after lying on the field of Borodino with Prince Bolkonski? Or heard a lion roar, and not felt the sweat on the steel rod in your hand, after hunkering in the grass with Lakweit?

Screw brief.

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