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Showing posts from May, 2019

May - or May Not

A while back, I said I would read Fennimore Woolson's novel For the Major.

All I can say is, I tried.

It is virtually unreadable today - and its sales when published suggest it was then, too.

Recognising bad writing is problematic, and it can be seen as very subjective. The reality is that it is only subjective for those who have little concept of what good writing is.

Writing words is like writing music: there are rules to follow. Just as a song with 33 bars is going to have a hard time making it into the charts, so are stories that violate the principles of fiction. 

Yet, as is clear, this is not a matter of ticking the boxes. There are more subtle aspects to be addressed: rhythm, syntax, and diction that is suited to the situation, time and character.

Edgar Allan Poe's "formula short story" is remarkably durable. However, Poe did not invent it any more than Aristotle formulated the "rules" for tragedies: they observed and recognised common characteristics in w…