Friday, May 28, 2010

HOW NOT TO BEGIN A STORY …


“He stumbled, bumbling and crumbling through the closed door strutting through the mattened crowd with his very good, handsomely good looks, looking like some mallianable mallard hen on the make, but in the end, after all was said and done with, so everyone else knew he wasn’t much more than just a shark of whom was wearing wolf’s clothing.”

Wow. Really? I mean, a well-turned simile and metaphor are great tools in the writers toolbox. And I’ve been known to intone a good piece of assonance as well. But, really? There are just so many things wrong with that first sentence. So many things.

I was giving a workshop on literary terms and devices in creative writing. It was for adults. Adults. Grown-ups who already considered themselves writers, but who were looking to improve their skills.

We worked through them all, from allegories to zeugmas, with examples of both good and bad usage. We talked through the question and answer segment, and it seemed everyone understood everything we had covered.

The final exercise was to write an opening sentence, using a few of the devices we had explored.

And someone, I’m assuming seriously so, turned in the sample above.

Yes, really.

An adult … who considered herself a good writer. Or as she might say, “a goodly woman with competence of writerly skills for which I consider myself to have them.”

So let’s start at the beginning.

“He stumbled…” is okay.

“…stumbled, bumbling and crumbling…” is actually a nice piece of assonance (i.e. – repetition of vowel sounds). And someone could stumble, bumble and crumble, although I’m not a big fan of the crumbling in this instance.

“…through the closed door…” presents a conflict for me. One can go through an open door, and one, upon finding a closed door, can open it to then go through, but how does one go through a closed door, except perhaps by crashing through or breaking it down?

“…strutting through …” seems contrary to stumbling, bumbling and crumbling. Can one really simultaneously stumble and strut?

“… the mattened crowd …” is either misspelled or misunderstood. I’m assuming she meant to say the “maddened crowd,” although it is more familiar to say the “maddening crowd.”

“… his very good, handsomely good looks …” is obviously redundant.

“… mallianable …” is not a word. I’m not sure if she is trying to say mammalian, or inalienable, or malleable, or what.

“… mallard hen on the make …” has suddenly switched from a he to a she? A hen is a female duck while the male duck is called a drake. It would have been so much nicer if she had said, “a drake on the make.”

“…but in the end, after all was said and done with, so everyone else knew he wasn’t much more than just …” is just wrong. Stop it.

“…a shark of whom was wearing wolf’s clothing ...” is a really weird mixed metaphor, but is somewhat intriguing. If she were intentionally using the mixed metaphor, she should have said, “a shark in wolf’s clothing.” I know, it really should be “a shark in sheep’s clothing,” but I actually like the notion of a shark in wolf’s clothing.

And did we mention that it’s a run-on sentence?

So let’s review.

Re-read the first line.

Follow this advice: NEVER WRITE LIKE THAT !

Unless you’re giving an example of how NEVER TO WRITE.

Thank you.

3 comments:

  1. I like your style dude.

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  2. A writer ... no, not that kindJune 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    lol I agree. I do not understand why some people think the longer the sentence, the better it reads. Clearly, the opposite is often true.

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  3. Out of the EtherJune 4, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    Funny shit Mr. E.
    And I actually re-read the first line and have vowed to never write like that.
    You really are an eclectic writer.

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