Posted by Charles Gray on March 2, 2014
Many modern authors try to nail everything down in their books. At times, that can be a good thing. But not always.
For example, consider the case of J.R.R. Tolkien and Tom Bombadil. He famously left the identity of the strange man living in the forest open to question. Was he a mair, a Valar…was he an incarnation of Eru? Nobody knows. It’s left as an exercise for the reader.
And that has spawned a vast number of speculations about the identity of Tom Bombadil. One of the most interesting, if rather dark, comes from Keith Martin, who provides us with an unsettling case for old Tom being not nearly the innocuous fellow he presents himself as being.
There is a boundary around Bombadil’s country that he cannot or will not pass, something that confines him to a narrow space. And in return, no wizard or elf comes into his country to see who rules it, or to disturb the evil creatures that gather under his protection.
And this gets us back to the original point– if Tolkien had left everything plain, there would be no room for such speculation– or such long running interest. It is the mystery that keeps fans wondering about the identity of Tom, and without that, it’s likely he would have become a complete footnote.
So don’t feel the need to explain everything. Sometimes a little mystery is good for the soul.
Posted in Fantasy, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: mystery, Tolkien, Tom Bombadil, writing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles Gray on February 4, 2014
To err is human, to forgive divine– this post was actually supposed to go on my political blog, where it has now been moved. For those who don’t like politics in their writing information, my apologies. For those who want to go to the place where I pull out the soapbox and get all ranty, well that’s why I’ve included the link :)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: daily beast, free speech, Thane Rosenbaum | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles Gray on February 3, 2014
It’s pounded into our heads by generations of English teachers. “Ain’t” is never to be used, no matter what. You must avoid run on sentences. Fragments are the work of the devil and will lead to you being cast down to poor student hell. Every paragraph must have a topic sentence, etc, etc.
The problem is that people don’t talk that way, at least not many of them. If you’re writing dialogue, you have to consider how it would sound. In many cases, painfully correct speech sounds quite strange if you say it out loud. People use incorrect grammar all the time when they talk. This is especially true when something stressful is happening. A police officer who is being shot at isn’t going to use complete sentences, and someone who is terrified is going to be lucky to remember to put a subject in the sentence.
But what does that mean for the writer?
First of all, remember that here we are talking about dialogue. Not descriptive text. Your characters may speak confusingly, but you as the author should never follow their example. Readers will accept character dialogue, but if they see the same errors in your descriptive text they will be far less forgiving.
Secondly, people tend to have certain speech patterns they keep to. So if a character isn’t using proper English, it’s a good idea to think about what type of errors he or she is making and why. Then try to fit them into the character’s overall personality. A hyperactive individual who is always bursting with thoughts may very well speak in run on sentences. In this case, the way he or she speaks reinforces the impression of them you want the reader to form. But if there’s no common theme running through the character’s speech, it will feel more like we’re not seeing a character attribute as much as we are seeing the work of a lazy author.
So, when considering the use of proper English for your characters remember the following points:
- People do not always use proper English when they speak.
- Sometimes, the use of quirks in a person’s speech can be an excellent way to help flesh them out as a character.
- However, as an author, you should always use proper English in your descriptive text.
- When you have a character use improper English, YOU (the author) should always have a reason for doing so.
If you keep to these rules, you’ll likely see a better end product, even if you ain’t always keeping to the proper writing style.
Posted in fiction, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: character speech, English, self publishing, writing style | Leave a Comment »